Hungry, Afraid, Lonely, Tired–and finding simple solutions for a person’s misbehavior

Once upon a time, someone taught me that some of the biggest reasons for a person’s outburst are found in the acronym HALT. A person might act out (=misbehave) because they are Hungry, Afraid, Lonely, or Tired.

I have been reminded recently that so many of the seemingly big problems in family life can be solved relatively quickly if we are praying for help and look for simple, practical solutions to the smaller and real–not perceived–problem.

For example, this morning one of my children was responding in anger to me and to their siblings. It wasn’t until this child was about to walk out the door for school that the real reason for their concern came to light: they were feeling overwhelmed with their second language teacher speaking in the second language (an immersion setting), and they weren’t understanding what the teacher was saying. They were afraid that they wouldn’t do well in the class and would continue to not understand.

Once I had that information, I invited that child to pray and to exercise their faith that they would be able to learn the language and come to understand their teacher.

Then I prayed for help. I had two thoughts come to mind, and I decided to act on one of those ideas. I texted an older sibling who speaks that second language and lives close and asked if he would come and tutor his sibling once a week. He cheerfully agreed! I texted the younger sibling. When my other child got home from school, they were so much happier about the situation and had hope that things would work out with the help of their sibling.

Over the past 25 years, I have seen that most problems can be resolved rather quickly through prayer and considering our resources:  What can I do to help this child or myself? Who else can help us? What resources might we need to help this child? I have found that Heavenly Father is quick to help us when we are trying to do what He asks and when we go to Him for help.

I am even reminded of when I was very sick and didn’t know what what wrong. The doctor didn’t have an answer. My husband didn’t know. I didn’t know. We went to Lane’s parents’ home with our children for Christmas. My mother-in-law said to me, “You just need sleep.” I thought she was grossly oversimplifying the situation because of how ill I was and how desperate Lane and I felt, but, in large part, she was exactly right. I had been sleep-deprived for months, and when a person doesn’t get sufficient sleep, their physical, mental, and emotional capacity begins to suffer. Add changing hormones adds another degree of challenge to that equation! So sleep was in my opinion at least 50% of the solution! The other 25% (or more) was certainly a lack of regular exercise, and then figuring out how to deal with the stress I felt over finances and other business challenges was probably the other 15-20%. I think I had very high expectations for my capacity while “running on empty”–so that was probably the other 5-10%. Those are my guesses as I look at what was happening and what we did to heal.

I wish I could always remember in the heat of the moment of a person’s anger to patiently listen and then, when the time is right, ask what they are really worried about. And THEN I can figure out how to help.

HALT: Hungry, Afraid, Lonely, Tired. Good thoughts on postponing judgment when someone is upset or acting out!

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