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What is the HALT Method and How to Apply It (Part 1: Hungry)

Hunger leads to exhaustion, lack of focus, and anger. Read about how to prevent "hangry" behaviors with these key nutrition facts and healthy snacks.

H stands for Hungry

The other day, I decided to take a walk through the park for a breath of fresh air (practicing social distancing, of course). I noticed a mom struggling with her two young kiddos, using all the patience she could muster. I watched as she calmly got down on their level, brought them close, and tried to talk them down from their tantrum. They were trying to get to the car, but they weren’t getting anywhere fast. The kids wriggled and squirmed out of her grasp, flailing around in true toddler form. I knew the look on her face well. She was exhausted and at a loss of what to do next. Or so I thought.

Suddenly, she whipped out a large picnic blanket and unloaded an assortment of snacks from her magical Mary Poppins bag. She popped a carrot stick in one child’s hands and a box of raisins in the other’s. They quietly sat down and began munching away. The tantrum vanished in an instant.

This well-versed mother knew that sometimes, when all else fails, it’s better to take a detour than to battle.

Proactive parenting goes beyond discipline. That mother knew that her kids did not need punishment, they simply had an urgent need that required urgent attention. She took a step back from the tantrum, identified the cause of the meltdown, and swiftly came to all three of their rescues.

If you are a childcare provider or parent yourself, no doubt you’ve witnessed the infamous toddler tantrums. They’re no fun for anyone, and it is difficult to pull away from the screaming. But proactive parenting is simpler than it sounds. Using the HALT method, you’ll be able to address the four most common tantrum triggers. Not only will identifying these triggers help to effectively resolve a tantrum, they will also provide tantrum prevention (music to every caregiver’s ears).

HALT stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. Here are tips on how to identify your child’s needs and the best ways to help them through it. HALT is a super simple method that consistently gets positive results. (Learn more about this method in No-Drama Discipline by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D).

  • Hungry – Truth be told, as humans we can all relate to each of these needs. Even adults feel agitated and out of focus under similar conditions. However, adults tend to react a little differently. Adults may seem detached, withdrawn, short-tempered…or we find ourselves headed to the closest vending machine. Kids, on the other hand, act out in full tantrum mode until their bodies and minds feel satiated.

Being ‘hangry’ is a real thing for all ages. Why? When blood sugar levels drop drastically, the brain does not receive the nutrient-dense fuel it needs, so the body releases stress hormones. Hunger leads to exhaustion, lack of focus, and anger.

To combat ‘hanger,’ it’s important to keep blood sugar levels steady throughout the day. Keep some simple nutritious snacks on hand, such as:

  • Peanut butter/nut butter crackers

  • Snack hummus

  • Sliced fruits & veggies

  • Dried fruit

  • Cheese

  • Yogurt

  • Granola

  • Apple sauce

  • Popcorn

  • Raisins

  • Hard-boiled eggs

  • Turkey & avocado wraps

  • Sweet potato fries/chips

  • Energy balls/grain bar

*Dehydration can wreak havoc on mood and cognition as well. Bringing water or milk along is a good idea, too.


Check back often for more positive parenting resources – we’re excited to take this journey with you!


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