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Household Harmony for the New Year

Increasing the chances of achieving household harmony is as simple as A-B-C. More specifically, using a few letters in the acronym, HALT, helps identify the issue that throws the emotional stability of an individual “off” and often affect the rest of the home’s emotional harmony. HALT can be used to determine the underlying issue and the solution to the problem by addressing the unmet need.

“HALT” originated on our honeymoon when we participated in a tandem kayak tour. We were paddling together in a boat having a major disagreement. Being stuck in the Pacific without an escape route, we were forced to resolve our argument or give each other the silent treatment for the remaining 6-hour tour. Fortunately, we resolved our issue (and enjoyed the rest of the journey) and came up with a great tool to help navigate future challenges.

HALT became the acronym to determine if one or both of us were feeling “Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired.” Once we identified the instigating issue, it was easier to solve the problem and address the deficient need with food, a compassionate ear, a hug, or resting.

So how do we take this same concept and apply it to children? Behaviors such as whining, being demanding, complaining, pouting, or talking-back can make parents angry (the “A” in HALT). If this occurs, competing needs from the children and parent result in power struggles and arguments, disrupting the household harmony. By looking at the undesirable behavior and using it as a signal to an unmet need we can thwart the disruption.

As parents, we noticed some other key factors beyond HALT that could cause our children’s moods, attitudes and behaviors to shift along the negative side of the emotional spectrum. The additional letters added to the acronym are (p/p). These letters represent pain or needing to go potty.

Now if someone is acting out, we run down the list:

  • Hungry? Give them food.

  • Angry? Demonstrate compassion, give them a quiet place to decompress, or just listen.

  • Lonely? Spend time with them, hug them and/or reassuring them.

  • Tired? Put them to sleep.

  • Pain? Hugs, kisses, Band-Aids, resting, baths, rest, pain medications etc.

  • Potty? (Obvious)

We have woven HALT (p/p) into our daily lives and use the equation to help the kids and grownups identify what is wrong. Ideally, the individual solves the problem. Sometimes, emotional overload or being too young makes it difficult to self-regulate. When this happens, kindly solve the problem on their behalf while talking through the clues based on HALT (p/p). Use this simple tool to maintain household harmony, and with practice, it’s as easy as 1-2-3.