HALTS Premise: 

Unmet basic needs (HALTS) are the root cause of “flipped lids,” ruptures in connection and challenging behavior in your family.

HALT is a term coined from Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). From a recovery perspective, people tend to relapse when they have unmet basic needs. Positive Discipline borrowed this term from AA because HALTS are so true for parenting as well.

From a parenting perspective, children and parents tend to behave negatively – and are more likely to “flip their lid” – when they are experiencing unmet basic needs. Sadly, children are often punished for misbehavior, when in reality they simply have an unmet basic need.

HALTS in Practice:

1. Do A Basic Needs Scans Throughout the Day: Remember to check-in regularly with your basic needs and your children’s basic needs.

2. Unmet Basic Needs = Off Line Prefrontal Cortex: Parents and children may have difficulty practicing logic, problem solving, empathy, compassion and language when basic needs are unmet. People are prone to yell and your children physiologically may not be able to hear you when they’re experience a HALT.

3. Meet the Need to Transform the Challenging Behavior: When possible, meet the need asap to transform the “mis”behavior.

4. Not Possible to Meet the Need in that Moment? Or Working with Chronic, Unmet Basic Needs? Lower your expectations for everyone involved, including yourself and simplify life. Focus on maintaining the positive relationship connection and nurturing yourself and your children in that moment. Then, you can circle back to the problem solving in a calmer moment.

5. Children with a Flipped Lid May Not Be Able to Identify their Own Needs and May Resist Having their Needs Met. In this situation, you may have to do some guess work followed by positive, gentle action to meet your children’s needs before a melt-down or power struggle occurs, or to ride the wave of a time of emotional release, expression or integration.

6. Anger, Lonely, Stressed and Chronic Sickness can More Challenging Basic Needs to Meet: “Angry” (positive outlets for expressing high emotions), “Lonely” (a need for Connection with self and others) and “Sick or Stressed” (needing more support and addressing inequities in the world) are more challenging, complex and sometimes abstract basic needs to meet and we can support you in your plan development.


Parenting Reflection:

  • What are the main HALTS your family is working with that are at the root cause of behavioral challenges and flipped lids?
  • Can you meet the need in the moment to transform the challenging behavior OR will you work to lower expectations and focus on connection and positive relationship?

Parenting Practice:

  • Pick one unmet basic need or HALT in your family and begin to develop a basic needs plan to meet the need or to lower expectations. Get specific: who, what, when, where and how. Use your calendar or phone alarms to set reminders for yourself on the key components of your plan.