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What is the HALT Method and How to Apply It (Part 4: Tired)

Did you know even older toddlers and preschoolers still need quite a bit of sleep? When we're over-tired, there's nothing like a little extra snooze that will do wonders for our moods.

T stands for Tired

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).

Tired – As a parent or caregiver, you can absolutely relate to this one! Remember that newborn stage when you couldn’t seem to get more than 3 hours of sleep at a time? It’s hard to focus and enjoy life. Unlike you (oh, what you wouldn’t give for adult naptime!), your child may fight sleep when she is exhausted. When your kiddo is overly tired, there’s nothing but sleep that will do the trick. Even older toddlers and preschoolers still need quite a bit of sleep (3-6-year-olds need 10-12 hours of sleep with a possible nap, and 7-12-year-olds need 10-11 hours). After all, sleep is essential for growing brains and bodies! Blocking out time for your child to get the appropriate amount of rest will help prevent tantrums and behavior issues during the day.

Signs of tiredness:

  • Lack of focus

  • Boredom

  • Crying & whining

  • Clinginess

  • Clumsiness

  • Irritability (even with food)

  • Yawning

  • Fidgeting

Once you learn the HALT Method of positive parenting, you will probably find that almost all difficult behavior is tied to these needs. Recognizing them, preventing them, and handling them appropriately will help you parent confidently and allow you to better care for your kiddo’s needs.


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


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