We recently returned from our annual summer trip (most definitely a trip and not a vacation). I went into this trip with much lower expectations than I had for our spring break trip to Florida. My goals were to not think about work too much, and to spend some time relaxing and connecting with T and the kids. I think both goals were pretty easily achieved, although I did take a work call one morning before the rest of the family was awake. There was swimming, fishing, jet skiing, and stand up paddle boarding. There was pool playing, a family game night of Apples to Apples, and both adults read a fair amount. And of course there was some tv watching and some serious staring at screens.
There were also more than a few moments of crabby from one or more of us. I think the difference this time around wasn't just my lowered expectations. It was also how I engaged with the kids when they were crabby. Just a few weeks ago I stumbled upon an article that mentioned the acronym HALT as a way to assess what is causing unwanted behavior. The article I read wasn't specifically targeted towards children (although I since found this blog post that is targeted towards kids), but that was my first thought upon reading it. HALT stands for: H - Hungry, A - Angry, L - Lonely, T - Tired. After one of the kids finished being upset about something I brought out the acronym and explained it to the kids. A weird thing happened when I explained it - instead of tuning me out both kids actively listened and one even grabbed a piece of paper to write out what it meant.
I explained that a lot of times when the two of them are bugging each other the first thing I ask them is when they last ate. The question typically annoys them, but a lot of times they are hungry and acting out because of it. I don't find the A all that helpful with my children, because I think they jump to Angry as an answer no matter what the true trigger for their unwanted behavior is - but I kept it in. There are times when one of them is angry about something completely separate from each other and it is causing them to act out towards each other. The L is helpful because sometimes they need to feel connected, and for whatever reason we aren't giving them enough of that. And T - while my children will almost never admit it, when they are tired they do not typically make good decisions. My kids felt that being thirsty was also a trigger for bad behavior so we added an extra T at the end so our acronym is now HALTT.
I do not think that the HALTT acronym is magical. However, applying it with my kids seems to be magical. I asked one or both of them at several points last week where they were on the HALTT scale and after first being annoyed at me they were able to walk through the letters and tell me what the issue was. It also helped me to stop refereeing their fights and punishing them and instead move to helping them work through whatever was causing the angst in the first place.
This parenting thing is always going to be a work in progress. I will continue to learn as I go along, and mess up along the way. However, it feels pretty good to have found a more positive way to deal with the inevitable sibling fights. I think overall it let me be more relaxed on this trip, and it helped me to enjoy the wonder that was all around us.