peaceful-parenting1

How to bring peace to the witching hour

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About Megan Tietz

Megan Tietz wants you to join her on the front porch for some long talks and iced tea. She lives in the heart of Oklahoma City with her husband, two daughters, and twin sons. Catch up with her at Sorta Crunchy and join the conversation in her Facebook community.

No need to check your calendar.  It’s not October (yet!).  The “witching hour” I’m thinking of happens on a daily basis.  Oh, what a relief it would be if, like Halloween, it only came once a year!

Many parents notice that from roughly 4 to 5 pm, every day is a difficult time for their children. This rough spot in the day seems to affect children from newborns on up to adolescence.  To be honest, it’s the one time of the day that takes me to the brink of absolutely losing it.

What is the witching hour?

This hour that rocks and rolls in all the wrong ways, every day, is usually marked by some universal characteristics. In newborns and babies, it may be an extended time of crying or fussing, or perhaps a need for more feeding sessions than usual.  For toddlers and preschoolers, this stretch of the day might bring about clinginess, crankiness, and meltdowns.  For older children, there may be an increased incidence in sibling warfare or grouchiness.

How can we bring peace to the witching hour?


Photo by THOR
I am certainly not an expert at navigating this challenging time; in fact, the only advice I have to share is that which has been passed on to me by other wise parents!  Here is what I find works best in our home:

1. Adjust expectations

The single most important solution I have found is to make sure I’ve managed my own expectations of what we are capable of in the late afternoons.  For example, I avoid running errands or engaging in social settings during this time.  Though I don’t understand what causes it, I do fully understand that it is a rough time  of the day for my children.  I try to respect that they need the comfort and familiarity of home during this time each day and make plans for us to be at home in the late afternoons.

It has helped tremendously for me to recognize that my children are going to need me for lots of hands-on, interactive parenting at this point in each day.  If my plans for dinner involve complicated preparation, I try to get most of that done earlier in the day.  I keep phone calls short, and I have chosen to cut out screen time for myself from around 3:30 until after dinner.

I find that our afternoons are the most peaceful when I decide ahead of time to be deliberately and thoughtfully engaged in parenting during the witching hour.

2. Stimulate the senses


Photo by SortaCrunchy

When I shared with friends that I was struggling with working with my girls through the late afternoons, one friend suggested to me that I involve some sensory stimulating activities into that time of the day.  This works wonders!  Sensory play must somehow distract them from whatever is happening within that causes so much external disruption.

Here are some suggestions to inspire witching hour play:

  • Go for a walk (babies in particular seem to love this)
  • Work on a nature collection
  • Give them a bath
  • Play with play dough
  • Finger paint
  • Dance
  • Sing
  • Snuggle up and read stories
  • Play tag
  • Have a small, healthy snack

3. Close the gap

A few weeks ago, I wrote on my personal blog about how I’ve been learning to counteract my impulse to yell at my children by whispering to them when I feel myself getting angry and frustrated.

My friend Caitlin said something in the comments on that post that struck me as really profound.  She wrote, “Because yelling doesn’t work. It only serves to widen the gap between me and my babies.”

I thought about that for a long time, particularly because it presents such an accurate picture of the formidable task of calmly and gently parenting our children through the rough spots in each day.  To be very honest with you, what I would really like to do during the witching hour is go into my bedroom, close the door, and hide.  That stretch of our day creates a monumental gap between me and them if I am not careful to intentionally close it.

Though it’s not easy, I have a responsibility each day to draw them close and show them that they can trust me to be calm in the midst of their storms.  I find it helps to keep them physically near me because that close proximity is a great reminder to keep closing that gap.

Don’t we, even as adults, have moments each day when we don’t feel quite right? Of course, the systems within our bodies have developed and matured to be able to cope with these off times, so I am more fully equipped to hold their hands as we navigate these choppy waters.  I hope that as my children grow into adulthood, they’ll be able to look back on the late afternoons we shared together with fond memories of gentle distractions rather than remembering anyone taking flight on a broom.

How have you been able to find peace in the witching hour? What solutions bring calm to your family in the late afternoons?

This post was originally published on September 8, 2010.

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Comments

  1. I have found over the years to keep up with our routine is an absolute must. We go for a play outside and then always have bath time at 4. It is early but it really helps to settle the kids. Once they are dressed they do a tidy around the house then read books on the couch while I finish preparing dinner. I also use this time to introduce different genres of music like classical, jazz and so on. Music in the background can also help to calm things.

  2. So very very true! I have four, two with special needs, and I’ve seen that those days I get geared up to engage and play with them during that pre-dinner time are always the best ones. I end up cooking dinner in the crock pot more often these days so I can ignore dinner until it’s ready and just enjoy the kids while it’s cooking itself!

    And I love your idea about whispering. I sing back a lot too. Anything to change it up!

    -Laurie

  3. My three-month old nephew–whom I babysit while his mom goes to evening school–always seems to want an extended, extra-tight cuddle time at about this time of the “witching hour”.

    It’s usually his nap time and though he doesn’t have any problems going to sleep at any other time, once the late afternoon kicks in, he starts getting cranky and no amount of rocking stops him from fidgeting and crying. I discovered by accident about a couple of weeks ago that he settles down and transitions to sleep much more quickly if I hug him extra close and tight while I sing “Rockabye Baby” with an upbeat tempo (crazy, right?). When I don’t, he’s a harder time sleeping so I just give him what he wants and he sleeps and wakes up happy.

    Now I know that it’s not just my nephew but it’s a universal thing. :) Great to know that. Thanks!

  4. I remember that knot in my stomach with my first baby when the afternoon came to a close … the dread of crying and stress … and this helped:
    I made supper at lunch time.
    We lay in a hammock and rocked.
    We took a bath together.
    I closed curtains, put on lamps and tidied the house entrance, and then went for a stroll just before daddy came home.

  5. Being a single mom and without a nanny, you get to experience the thrills of having a toddler and the intensity of it! For this witching hour, our kids need our full attention to reassure them and make them feel that “mommy loves them”.
    @Megan: I especially agree with “closing the gap”. You need not shout to get your kids attention. I learned this the hard way! I couldn’t contain all the emotion and stress inside me, so I yelled. Instead of calming him down, he shouted at me. Then I remember, it is at this stage they mimic what they see or hear. After that incident, I realized that I should calm down first to calm my son down. Great and very informative post! KUDOS to you :)

  6. Ooh, good stuff!

    I typically have the older kids sitting at the kitchen counter, working on their homework, while the younger one helps me with dinner prep. I sometimes have her read to me while I work.

    Your point about making the decision to be engaged is so important — I am tired at that time and I want to take a break. But they need me, and the sooner I admit and go with that fact, the easier it will be!

  7. You nailed it, Megan. If I don’t get outside with my two boys during that tough hour before dinner, we all go crazy!

    I personally crash around 2 pm, so as long as I take a few minutes for myself then, I can coast through ’til bedtime.

    Great post!

  8. When I realized I was rarely getting through our Witching Hour (between 4 and 6) without feeling like I was on the brink of a 2 year old sized tantrum I knew something needed to change. I made a decision not to try to get ANYTHING done during this time and to pay all my attention to the kids. My frustration was coming from not being able to get dinner prepped, emails answered and laundry folded while getting the kids to pick up the house and getting them fed and bathed. It was just the absolute worst time of the day to be trying to accomplish so much. So now all my attention is dedicated to them and getting us through this time peacefully. No computer, no phone and no chores. And now there are fewer tantrums from all of us!

    And I LOVE the whispering idea!

  9. The witching hour is so real! Since the weather is great right now, we have been going outside, swinging, biking, playing ball or whatever we can to get energy out, but also to be together and enjoy each other. Then, after enjoying being together, I’ve asked the kidlets to enjoy being by themselves in their rooms while I make the last preparations for dinner. It seems to work wonders – they get my individual attention for a period of time and reconnect with me, then they seem satisfied to get some down time. We’ll see how long this pattern can hold!

  10. Alaina’s post hit the nail on the head when it comes to the strategy I’ve used successfully. We get outside and move . . . or at least move. When my daughter was 2 she would wait anxiously for Dad to get home so we could hit the park on bikes, roller blades or just feet. But even on a rainy day, it’s a great time to stomp on puddles or just roll around in a good wrestling match or do a dance contest with some upbeat music.

    Physical activity is such a perfect antidote for being on edge and getting the edginess out.

  11. I get a touch cranky about 4 pm when my blood sugars like to drop. A tiny glass of orange juice in my favorite tea cup with a few nuts does the trick.

    When Kiddo was a baby I would put him in his swing about 4 pm. Some times he would take a short cat nap. He tended to cry alot the first few month about 6pm-8pm. I would give him a bath and then “dance” or rock him until bedtime. He loved being swaddled.

  12. I love the photos in this post!

  13. It’s crazy but the witching hour truly does exist. There is so much going on during that time of day – getting home from school and work, the need to tell about the events of the day and unwind, dinner prep, homework and on and on. I know a lot of moms let the kids have relax time right after school and do homework later, but it works better for us to go straight to homework with a snack – then if they need extra time or help, there is time after dinner to help with the tough questions and they know they won’t be pestered about homework for the rest of the evening. For us, its a disaster to try and drag them back to homework later in the evening.
    But the thing that absolutely helps the most is simply to have a plan for dinner. It seems that if the kids know dinner is cooking and know when we’re going to eat – even if its later than they’re used to and there is other craziness – they can deal with things. If I’m flustered and trying to think of something – they seem to read that as panic and witching hour is much worse.

  14. The witching hour is such a touch time of the day. I usually grab a little coffee and a snack to rejuvenate myself so I don’t feel so sluggish and can muster up some patience. I love the idea of whispering when angry – what a great way to consciously keep ourselves under control!

  15. People think we’re crazy, but our preschool age playgroup has always met at 4 PM. That’s when the kids and moms ALL need a change of scenery. It gives us something to fill that witching hour and we meet at parks or set up painting, digging, dancing activities to stimulate those senses.

    I’ve gotta try whispering. Especially during the 5 “witching minutes” before we head out the door in the mornings.

  16. Great post with wonderful ideas. It really is such a hard time of day. I liked the adjusting your expectations point…that one thing helps me so much in a variety of situations. I find with my kids, the best thing we can do at that time of day is get outside and do something!

  17. I love your whisper technique. The other day I was completely losing it and out of the blue, I clamped my mouth shut. (Normally, I often yell. Yell until they cry and I’m sure they’ve got it in their heads that Mommy disapproves). I just watched and listened to my kids. I only spoke when absolutely necessary. I actually did walk out of the room, brought the baby to bed to nurse (he was screaming at me in addition to his older sisters’ antics). The girls soon followed and we all cuddled up for a good (mostly silent, for me) snuggle. I kept it up all day, my brain buzzing with the wonders of staying quiet and not yelling, but my mouth (mostly) clamped shut. And amazingly, that rage-feeling that wells up inside? It is now sort of a trigger (more often—I’m not perfect!) to clamp my mouth shut instead of yell. I NEVER thought I’d be able to do it.

  18. These are some great suggestions. I’ve been having my kids play outside and with the neighbor kids during this time, but I’ve noticed, even with that, the play gets too rough, people get hurt and I end up yelling and there are lots of time outs. Having kids who napped well helps. Having dad arrive home helps even more (they just seem to need dad at this time of the day. His energy is different and it seems to help.) Yesterday was not a fun “witching hour” – mom was the witch, the kids were witchy too.

    Today I’m going to try some of your suggestions for more calming play inside. Maybe baths for everyone, especially since my son has started to refuse them at bedtime, would be a good idea.

  19. Sometimes witching hour means we take to the outdoors: I sit on the porch with the baby, a book, and preferably, a beverage. The girls run around like crazies on our front lawn. We like to wait for Daddy out there. They never want to come inside!

  20. I can’t tell you how timely this is. I just about lost it yesterday, as my 8 month old was losing it, right as daddy got home. She’s teething on top of everything, so 5pm is really a hellish time.

    I will definitely keep these things in mind. :)

  21. I’ve been contemplating this witching hour in the past week myself. I experienced it with both of my littles when they were babies, but it seems to have snuck back in to our routine. We’ve been heading outside at 4pm after a snack – seems to help with the extra energy and “witching”. In our house, witching = whining, fighting, crying, tantrums. Sound about right? Great post, Megan!

  22. Moving around indoors just doesn’t cut it for us. If we can get outside, we do; I also find that 4pm-4:30 is the optimal time for my toddler (and me!) to have a snack. Must be something about the blood sugar levels; we rarely snack “too much” and ruin our appetites for a 6/6:30 dinner.

  23. I thought It was just us! My 4-month-old gets BAD fussy from 6-8 when he’s trying to wind down for the evening. This is especially hard because I work all day and pick him up from my mom’s around 5. I used to try to get supper on the table around 6 but that’s nearly impossible these days. Sometimes a walk outside is the only thing that will calm him down, sometimes we have to leave the living room with the TV and lights to sit and rock in his dark nursery, sometimes I just have to hold him with our chests together and give him a pacifier and just wait it out until his bathtime, which I try to do around 8. Sometimes we don’t make it that long and have to do it at 7:30. We bath, bottle, and swaddle and he’s out like a light. And forget about Daddy at this time. Only Mama will do!

  24. I’m lucky. I’ve actually never noticed a specific ‘witching hour’ in our house. I have two boys (almost 3 and almost 1). I wonder if it’s because my DH works from home most days and typically prepares dinner for us? I think any hour of the day can end up being the ‘witching hour’ when our attention is not focused on our kiddos and we aren’t trying to involve them in what we’re doing or in another ‘sensory’ activity. I find that when I’m tired of being a mom a nice long walk really helps. It takes up a good chunk of time and we all get fresh air.

  25. I understand this ‘witching hour’ all too well with 2 girls under 2. Thankfully, my husband works 6-3pm most days and is here to lend a hand and keep them busy so we can get dinner on the go. I’m always on the hunt for good crockpot recipes though so I can prepare dinner earlier on in the day. Playdoh seems to be our go to as of late to keep my oldest happy during that time of day. A nice walk outside would be good as well, will try that.

  26. I find that this is the time of day that my children need a little “teatime” snack and then to get outside for a walk, bike ride, or just run off their extra steam in the backyard. If we can’t get outside due to bad weather, then they often turn on the stereo and dance away the grouchies. After that, we are all ready to settle in for some read alouds or other quiet activity such as drawing or a craft project.
    Great post, thanks so much!
    Blessings,
    Catherine :)

  27. well, plopping them in front of the tv doesn’t work as well as I wish it did, to tell you the truth. This also happens to be the time of day I (like many) become very very sleepy. So I usually take us all outside. We live in Southern California, and luckily, the weather is almost always lovely. And it does wonders. I think it’s a combo of fresh air, movement, and distraction while together.

  28. I call that hour “The Arsenic Hour” because I am sorely tempted to add a pinch of the poison to the supper I am preparing.

  29. I hadn’t really thought about school-aged kids having a witching hour, but now that you’ve put it into words, it’s obvious! I work 3 days a week until 4:00 and it never fails that the minute my three kids are loaded in the car, they start fighting. Once upon a time, I tried to start dinner as soon as we got home, but that was usually a disaster. So now we all head to the living room for Word Girl and Electric Company (thank you, PBS) and I look at the girls school work and hold my 3 year old son in my lap. By 5:00, everyone has recovered enough to go play outside or in their rooms while I work on dinner. Thank you for reminding me that older children still need some devoted mommy time.

  30. On days that I worked the “witching hour” antics seemed tenfold. We stumbled upon having 15 – 20 minute tea parties (pretend) quickly after we got home to reestablish our connection/relationship. My daughter was wanting the attention and it provided a play activity that involved talking, serving, (interactions) that also cued her she was now home and with mommy. Yet is was not super stimulating. I was then able to get up after 20 minutes and start working on some of the chores i.e. fixing dinner, clearing clutter etc. I noticed on the days that I skipped the tea party we had more struggles. I loved your “close the gap” concept. It was soooo what we were going through.

  31. Oh, the witching hour – that’s exactly what we call it. I’m with you on the sensory play idea. It works like a dream for us, especially play dough. I think because it’s gentle and tactile but also engaging and creative – with no right or wrong way to play with it it’s really good when you have children of different ages too.

  32. I love this. Putting a name and description to it. I was just yesterday noticing and reflecting on this time of day and how it throws us all into a kilter. You voiced it so well when you said: “I have a responsibility each day to draw them close and show them that they can trust me to be calm in the midst of their storms.” OUCH! And I think how often I end up making their storm, MY storm and joining in with the crashing waves, or as you noted, going into hiding…and they fend for themselves??!! oh my.

    The larger challenge for me is, being a single mom, this chaotic hour happens as I am off work, picking them up from school, driving home and then starting dinner…already a disruptive time without the inner pulls of crunchiness!

    Whatever to do? Captive in a car…homework needing to be done, tables to be set…sigh. I am going to read EVERY comment…and try to glean ideas.

    But thank you, awareness and calling it out, is a great eye opener, and moves me closer to being the calm in the midst of the storm.

  33. What a practical topic! Years (and I’m talking maybe decades) ago there was a popular book all of us young moms read called “My First 300 Babies”. It’s probably out of print, but don’t let the title scare you – nor about 1/2 the content. The reason the books methods were so successful (this Nanny had about a 98% success rate in getting babies to sleep through the night at 2 weeks) was because of her emphasis on routine. We all just do better when we know what to expect – and when we anticipate needs so we can respond vs. react.

    And I love how you recognized that even adults have “witching hours”. At our house everyone knows that Dad shuts down at 9pm. We don’t fight it anymore…..or make him feel guilty that he can’t stay up late helping with projects or making decisions. When we try to force him into something he’s not – we all regret it :) People say I’m super-organized, but the truth is – I know what it takes for me to thrive vs. survive, and I’ve stopped fighting it. I MUST get up before everyone else – which means I MUST take a nap/rest instead of working while everyone else rests.

    And P.S. – As the mother of 11, with 8 still home (5 of them teens), the witching hour is still going strong. Young moms hate to hear this…..but there really are aspects of those early years that are much, much easier than what’s to come. Older kids may resist it, but they need/appreciate routine as much as your toddler. Hey! I think I just got inspired for my next post. Routines for Big Kids :)

  34. I feel the need to apologize for the length of my last comment. It didn’t look nearly that long when I was typing it in! Conciseness is an art I have obviously not learned.

  35. Thanks for the suggestions for sensory stimulation. A bath would be perfect during that lull before dinner. We usually head outside since that seems to solve most of my daughter’s crankiness!

  36. Funny you mention whispering… the teachers at my kids’ Montessori school told me that tip years ago, and I still fail to put it into practice! You’d think I would have learned by now.

    As for the early evening hours, I never realized it, but the kids usually either play outside on their bikes, dance to the music, help me with dinner, or watch some TV. I usually resort to the TV as a last resort, but it’s something to consider when you’re getting ready to pull your hair out!!

  37. Oh the witching hour! This post could not have come at a better time! Along with my 7 year old who just went back to school last week, I also went back to school last week for the first time in 9 years. My husband started working the evening shift so that we would not need to find childcare for our 2 year old. This leaves me alone in the evening with the kids and all that goes along with that. We have really been struggling to get a routine in place to help soothe this time of day. This post is very reassuring and has a few ideas that I think we can implement to help us get on track!

  38. Nice post. I was a little skeptical as I began to read. As a stay at home father of 2 boys (ages 4 and 7) I’ve found parenting to be pretty easy from day 1, and usually don’t have a whole lot of patience for people that want to complain about how hard it is. But you won me over with your sound advice. A lot of it is stuff I just take for granted the entire day – lots of focus on your kids, no screen time, keep things simple, walk or bike everywhere – that’s pretty much been my daily routine for 7 years.

    Thanks for writing it up in such a thoughtful and concise manner.

    All the best.

  39. We always called this arsenic hour in my family. I have also found that walks, finger painting, water colors are helpful at this time. After a hard day at work I would love to plop on the couch but I make an effort to plan an activity as soon as we walk in the door. Sometimes it’s just throw everyone in the double-stroller and off we go. Whatever works that day we do.

  40. I’m not sure what time of day this corresponds to for us, since my kid is a late night kinda kid. Probably dinner time/making of dinner (usually 6 or 7 pm). One thing I should NOT do (I’ve learned) is take him out on a walk. He will want to go to every playground he knows exists, then NOT LEAVE. Yikes! He yells “oh, slide! oh, Slide!!” all the way home. It does make dinner really difficult, especially since I’m a terrible cook to begin with!

    I will try to use the whisper technique, too, I think. Yesterday I was awfully tired and my buttons were pushed at every little tantrum (he was tired, too, obviously!). Not that he listens when I whisper, but we’ll see how I do. :)

  41. Wow!! Loved this article! And I too love the comment from your friend Caitlin! That is a profound statement and I’m going to take that to heart!

  42. Oh Megan, you’re always so good and turning on lights in my head where I didn’t even know there was darkness. Maybe I should make the witching hour our praise time (along with the morning, which I have yet to institute but I am hoping will help us start our day with the proper focus). Or maybe dinner can wait and we can go on a walk now that the weather is nice. A walk with a snack.

  43. I’m so glad that I now have a “mommy term” for this time of the day. I was just contemplating that no matter how I organize my day or schedule my time during the day, things just stack up and collide into each other at the magical hour of 5 pm! This is definitely my “high-stress” time of day. I’m so thankful for your ability to put this challenging time into words and give some good ideas on how to cope (and even thrive!) during this time! The things I found most helpful were 1. no screen time. 2. whispering. 3. engaging them in some sort of sensory activity, even if it is an independent activity which would allow me to finish my dinner prep. I’m going to start practicing these tips as soon at 4 pm rolls around and 2/3 of my children awaken from their naps. Blessings!

  44. The timing of this post is profound, because just TODAY I was watching my son during his 5pm swimming lesson, wondering what in the world possessed me to sign up for that terrible time. He was a wiggle worm who had to be disciplined by the lifeguard, the teacher, and me, multiple times. It was like he had forgotten everything he has learned in lessons all summer. I was getting frustrated until I realized – Hello! It’s 5 o’clock – no wonder. This is the Witching Hour. And then I come home and read this. So thank you for reminding me it is not just my child. And of course, we won’t be doing 5 o’clock swimming lessons again!

  45. I love this Megan, great stuff!

  46. Hi I am going to use these ideas at home with my 3 kids. Also share with my wife, she is actually a housewife. I will keep your website in mind.
    thanks

  47. I know why sometimes my mom gave us juice or raw veggies as appetizers early before dinner. We used to call it the pit hour referring to the race car pit team. Bless Mr. Rogers for coming on at 4PM (or low key DVD’s) . Highchairs near Mommy helped. Soft classical music playing while kids did quiet activities at their play table. Afternoon snacks early on. Sometimes I just put the tired kids to bed after a simple scrambled egg or baked potato meal. Close those curtains tight!
    And I about the time I got it “down” they grew or another one entered a new stage!

  48. Megan,

    I love what you say here about closing the gap. I hadn’t thought of it that way.

    I think each family will find strategies unique to their situation – activities, kid’s ages etc… but the over arching goal is to bring our children closer to us. To not have anger, strife & misunderstandings in the way of our relationship with these most precious people.

    Even at ages 7, 9 & 11 with a homebased life schedule we still melt down around that time and I am always trying new strategies to make it easier. But I need to think more about the reason to not lose it (closing that gap) because the strategies themselves change according to season and life stage.

    Thanks for the great food for thought.

  49. Thank you for this post. The timing was perfect for me. My husband and I were just trying to figure out how to handle this “hour” or two. (We have a 2 1/2 year old & a 10 month old.) I love the ideas and will try to see what works for us. Thanks!

  50. Megan,
    Great post!!! I love your honesty–glad I’m not the only one who feels like losing it sometimes at this time of the day. Thanks for the tips!

  51. This is so great Megan! I am going to adopt your habit of cutting out screen time for myself during this time – It just makes me cranky going back and forth (between my kids and computer) with my attention anyway.

  52. Wow! Thanks for these excellent ideas! The witching hour is major at our house, and you are so right – it makes all the difference when I plan ahead and engage with them instead of trying to get a lot done. I’ve also found this is the best time for TV!!

  53. These are all great comments to a great post! Mornings are when my energy is highest, so that has always been an important time to tackle as many of my day’s challenges as I can, and meal prepping for supper ranks right up there. Thanks for such helpful insight. If it can help one mom have a happier late afternoon, it affects a whole household.

  54. Had to include this one in my blog’s weekly Reading Roundup. Fantastic ideas!!

  55. Definitely the hardest time of the day at our house, too. I LOVE the whispering idea…I will definitely be trying that out. Thanks for continuing to stretch us and challenge us to grow.

  56. this is GREAT! Thank you for sharing. We always call it the witching hour. When ours were babies we bathed early and often put music on and did a lot of dancing. Now, there’s homework and usually we go for an early tea or stories and that seems to really work! We have another one on the way to through into the mix. And I think we’ll really need those tips again! Thanks.

  57. As I read this, I nodded, knowing it is so true, yet realized that the hour from 4-5 is a really sweet time of day for us because of our routine. Without the routine, I do know what the cause of the problem would be for my children-hunger and exhaustion. We homeschool (K & 1st grade). When naptimes ended, we switched to “the quiet hour.” In the afternoon, we each spend an hour in our rooms reading or playing quietly. After the quiet hour, we are all refreshed and happy to come together again. We do a few things together to prepare for our afternoon “teatime” (we might bake something quick), and then we sit together for simple refreshments. They look forward to this so much-I do too. :) After that the children help me with dinner prep or play outside. There is some time outside for sure!

  58. P.S. And virtually no screen time for us! My children can’t handle it, and I learned that the hard way when they were toddlers. Once a week, when we do our science experiment, we watch a 3 minute science clip on DVD, and we look at any educational online links I have for them at that time. That’s it. They don’t watch regular TV ever (unless they see it at a friends house rarely). We do have movie nights with family and friends about once a month at most. They do not like it when they are in others’ homes and children are watching TV. They want to play! I love this!

  59. Thanks for the advice. I’m wondering how this works with school-aged kids who come home with an hour of homework each night. Would you take care of that after supper?

  60. My friends! Let me fill you in on one of the most glorious things to ever happen to our family! It’s a little thing we call “4PM Dinner.” It’s pretty much what it says on the tin: At 4pm, we eat dinner.

    I know: crazy, right? Give it a try. IT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE.

    We typically give the kids one more snack around 7pm — apple slices, cheese sticks, toast, or crackers with cream cheese. And then it’s off to bed. But it means that we give them a looooong wind-down period after dinner, and it means they aren’t snipping at each other and terrorizing us from 4pm until dinner.

    Some of you might protest that it isn’t possible to do “family dinner” if one of the parents is still at work. You’re right. But it’s worth it to us to have a happier family for the away-parent to come back to, rather than a spouse-run-ragged, and kids barely clinging to life (either because of each other, or because of the spouse-run-ragged).

    Seriously. Try it. Hands down, the best discovery of the last year for us.

    • We eat at about 430p and then go back outside (weather permitting after dinner to get that last bit of energy out before bath and books and bed.) My husband works alternating shifts so one week he is home for dinner and the next it’s just my 3 year old son and I. We still sit down together at dinner time. We don’t do an extra snack now, but did when he was 1-2 years old and needed the little extra b/c he went to bed later. A small bowl of oatmeal is a nice warm calming snack.

    • As a mom in a family with two working (away from home) parents, I totally get this! Tonight my husband offered to pick up the kids from daycare since he was getting home earlier, but I suggested that instead he get supper started so we could eat as soon as the kids and I get home. As wonderful a tradition as family dinner can be, it’s kind of a missing-the-forest-for-the-trees situation if we prioritize it over having relaxed, happy family time together.

    • I just might have to try this! They’re always begging for a large snack around that time and it’s like fighting off wolves to keep them out of the fridge so they won’t spoil their dinner – why not just give them dinner when they’re hungry?! Such a novel concept. Let me see how this could work for us. (Anyway, we’ve been having “family breakfast” lately, so that counts as our daily meal together!)

  61. Going rather against all the lovely suggestions here, but I tend to stick my little ‘un in front of the telly at that time! I find she’s so over-stimulated from school that she just needs a bit of vegging-out time. Sometimes she’ll draw while listening and other times she’ll just slump into the cushions, but it works: come 5 o ‘clock, Daddy home and tea-ready, she’s ready to interact again.

  62. For us, that witching hour coincides with dinner-making hour, so we’ve had to learn to manage it well. I think it’s mostly a combination of hunger and tiredness, so I give snacks around 3:00 or 3:30, and when they were all quite young, we’d turn on the PBS cartoons and let them just vegetate till it was time to set the table. Now, there’s sort of a natural rhythm to our day, and after the 4:00 living room tidy, they just sort of naturally congregate in the calmest areas of the house, be that the newly cleaned living room with a book, or in Daddy’s arms while he uses his computer, or perhaps in the kitchen with some paper and crayons while Mama chops veggies for dinner. Bonus: Perhaps something will fall off the cutting board. ;-)

  63. Excellent resource. Thank you. Pinned and printed :-)

  64. We’ve bought dinner forward here – our family routine enables it. The Kids are just back from school and hungry. So rather than a snack, they read whilst I dish up and then we all sit down together. Whilst we eat we play ‘good day, bad day’. Or rather ‘bad day, good day’ so that we finish on a positive.
    By 5pm we’re done.
    This has helped as I find hunger can be a contributing factor to frustration etc… most certainly is with me!

  65. Honestly… we have started eating dinner really early. Like 4:30-5 early. I work outside of the home MTW and my husband makes an effort to be home by 4:30. I’m as guilty as anyone about getting hungry and then getting grouchy (I also suffer from hypoglycemia and that doesn’t help). We’ve found that getting everyone (including our cats, who are also the neediest at this time) fed early reduces our stress level and gives us more of the evening to enjoy together.

  66. Mine come out of school at 3:15. I make sure I have a snack a available. Then let them play outside. We are very privaledged that outside thier school is a green with trees to climb and a river with stepping stones. They generally get to at with thier friends and so stones we take the dog in the woods. If the weather is not good I’ll often take them swimming on the way home. This all seams to help. Meltdown can still happen when we get in the door but if thier energy is then diverted to a more ralaxing occupation or playing on the garden it helps. The other thing which helped us in the past was walking home from school and may e stopping at the park or by the river or even popping in the shops. It resulted in much calmer children than drivi g did.

  67. The timing of this post couldn’t be better! We had an incredibly difficult witching hour just yesterday that left me beside myself not knowing how to calm my 11 year old. She just started middle school, is an anxious child to begin with & is overloaded with homework and tons of new rules. I tried very hard to remain calm but she certainly knows how to press all my buttons. After thinking about it all night, I decided to completely clear my schedule from the time she arrives home from school til after dinner to avoid any distractions and be available for her when she needs me. Whether it’s helping with homework, having conversation, or eating a snack, I’m hoping if she knows I’m close by ready to help her at any given moment, it will ease her anxiety during this new phase in her life.

  68. Because I work from home, I am able to set our schedule a little easier then parents that travel from outside working environments. But what works for me is to serve dinner to the kids pretty much the minute they get home from school. I found that if I let them snack they wouldn’t eat their meal and both my kids have early bedtimes so a late supper is never a good option. (They are cranky kidlets if they don’t get their full night’s sleep).

    So they eat just after 4. My husband and I sometime eat later if he is working a day shift. If he is on late shift, I eat with the kids.

    But I find once they are fed, they are calm. Then we play, read, get ready for bed, etc. And if they really need a snack once bedtime rolls around, I don’t mind giving them a little something again.

  69. I just wanted to add that water play is an amazing panacea for our children at any time of day, but especially during the ‘witching hour.’ Fill a plastic tub or the bathroom sink, lay down some towels, add toys and let your child have at it!

    It never fails that when they are finished playing, everyone’s energy will be calmer. It’s like voodoo magic! ;-)

    • Yes, my son loves to play in the kitchen sink with some spoons and bowls or a colander and a small squirt of soap. I live by the phrase, “If crabby, add water.”

  70. This is the time of the day when my twin babies nap, so I have alone time with my three year old. Sometimes I’ll cook while he paints in the kitchen. It’s pretty quiet, and I think he appreciates that it’s his downtime, since he is just getting home from school.

  71. I’ve never experienced this regular “witching hour” in the late afternoons with my son. As a baby it was generally much later in the evening that he was always fussy, but he’s a snuggler and was always in a wrap or sling with me. Now at 3, a predictable routine is key to all parts of our day. I start cooking dinner at 4p (we eat earlier than many.) When my husband is home, he plays with him. When my husband works a different shift, I cook simpler meals and have my son help with dinner. We go back outside after dinner before bath and bed.

  72. When my 2 oldest sons were young, we would have what I called “room time” from 4:30 – 5. This allowed them opportunity to learn to entertain themselves, either with legos, cars, drawing, action figures, etc., and as they got older, reading. Back then we didn’t have ipads, laptops, cell phones, or computer games, and so it was greatly beneficial in helping them develop the art of being still and settled using their own creativity. It also allowed me to focus on dinner preparations and at least a short interlude of calm during the witching hour!

  73. My solution(actually my mother’s technique).

    1. Good snacks for everyone at 3:30

    2. Check in on everyones day

    3. Outside everyone!

    Bill

    Enjoy the day! Tomorrow is not guaranteed.

    Tempus Fugit!

    We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand, and melting like a snowflake…
    Francis Bacon

    The cost of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.
    Henry David Thoreau

  74. Kids get home from school at 3, so we do snack, chat, homework and run around a lot outside if we can manage. Then at 5-6, that crazy hour they work themselves into frenzy, cranky and bickering, I let them cash in their rewards for good behavior and they play a video game. Some people are entirely against electronic entertainment and that’s fine, but for us this is another kind of downtime, separate from reading times, crafting times, etc. It works magically when nerves are taxed out and creativity has been tapped. It helps us get dinner on time and calm the crazies. It allows Daddy to come home to a peaceful household and not have to break up fights while Mommy cooks. For us, 30-45 min of Minecraft is bliss.

  75. Independant crafty things have always helped me get my girls through this time of day… They would start with their allotted screentime-usually a VeggieTales show. That would help them relax. Then they were allowed to independantly craft while i made supper. I kept one of my kitchen drawers stocked with coloring books, crayons, watercolor and construction paper. Playdough and the like were special privelage days but that was another possibility. I didnt allow watercolors every day either. What can I say, i’m not a big fan of getting the table all messy right before mealtime. This kept them looking forward to special days and i looked forward to not scrubbing gunk off the kitchen table every day. Do you know what one of their favorite projects was?! I gave them a few sheets of construction paper, some foam stamps and WATER. They always had fun with watching the darker images appear. And (I feel so cheap saying this!) once dry, i could put the paper back in the cabinet and they could use it again. And no stained clothing and no paint streaks on the table!! By late preschool age they were no longer entertained with this but by then they had more control with messy stuff.

    Now my kids are tweens. *sniff!*

  76. A favorite sleep book of mine says that well rested children do not have witching hours. I’ve found this to be true!

    Witching hours are a red flag for me to look at my children’s sleep. Is my preschooler getting a consistent amount of the 11-13 hours of sleep recommended for her age? (She needs a middle ground of that) Is my school age child getting the 10-11 hours of sleep recommended for her age? (She has always needed the high end of the range for her age.)

    As for me, yes, I also have a witching hour when tired!

    While it takes a few days to get back on track, I do use many of the strategies talked about here. To me, they are good band-aids until we can get enough sleep to get rid of the witching hour.

  77. Can I just say I totally and completely needed this today? I was at my wits end, with my toddler running around, looking for something fun and constructive to do, and my kid processing a full school day. We were at each others throats; I went for my iPad to take my own break, saw this post, and said, “the park! we’re headed to the park for a walk!”

    It was a little later in the day than the true witching hour, but just as needed. We walked, and played, and talked, and had a chance to clear the cobwebs from our busy day and messy house. Thank you so much for this encouragement! We have this problem every day, and I was stuck in the rut and couldn’t see where they needed some extra love and guidance, especially as I’m the one who is just as drained!

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