anxiety, children, dinner, mindful parenting, parenting tips

Surviving the Witching Hour

The Witching Hour — Surely you know it. That time of the day that’s neither here nor there, sometime in the late afternoon/early evening when the kiddos are weirdly out of control. It’s nobody’s friend.

Maybe it hits at a different time for you. And maybe when it happens it makes you question every decision you ever made in life.

For me, it’s the point in the day when I am often convinced my children were sent here to destroy me. Some days I have to work especially hard to keep it together so I don’t completely lose my cool with them.

What I’ve learned in my nearly eight years as a mom is this: kids are people, too. They get tired and cranky just like their fully grown counterparts do. And often for some of the same reasons.

Now because me losing my cool is always an actual possibility, I’ve learned to use somewhat of a checklist for myself to see what’s fueling my irritation. For me personally it may be that I’m tired or hungry, that I’m feeling overwhelmed, or something is physically irritating me — like a headache or a muscle ache.

Because I know that kids are people, too, I assess them in a similar way:


We don’t have toilets in my house; we have potties. And when my three year old is on the verge of a meltdown it is often because she needs to use the potty. It can be a real battle to convince her of that, however, but it is absolutely worth me picking up my possessed child and sitting her on the potty because as soon as she relaxes enough to pee, the demons are gone.

This rule also applies to my seven year old, though I don’t ever have to pick her up and force her on the toilet.

The real struggle with this one is not yelling at them. My frustration level slowly creeps higher and higher because it is such a ridiculous argument to have. I try to change the tone of my voice to something louder and more stern to make my point, but only when the issue is truly escalating. Yelling from anger rarely happens; what helps keep that feeling at bay for me is the knowledge that once their problem is solved, their behavior will likely improve.


Kids need snacks. When they have a drop in blood sugar because it’s been too long since they’ve eaten, they get cranky just like you and I might. (I do.) I really have to watch the portion size of snacks for my three year old because if her snack is too big she won’t eat dinner. And then dinner is hell. And I don’t really have a solution for that one yet.


Although we want to let our children have self directed activities for at least some part of their day, they can sometimes be overwhelmed by their choices. They don’t know that what they are feeling is “overwhelmed” so it just comes out as “cranky”.

If I can suggest two or three things for them to do (more than that is overwhelming), usually they will pick one and focus on that for a while. It can be homework or reading, or even a chore like folding towels. I also like to suggest drawing a picture or making a bracelet or something creative (for my three year old I suggest practicing her letters and numbers, too). I save TV or games on an iPhone or other device for when they get tired of the first thing…


And of course I’m doing all these things while trying to make dinner, right? And I probably also need to go potty or have a snack and am also overwhelmed. So when I get them settled, I get myself settled. If I can give each of them my undivided attention for at least 30 seconds when solving all of these problems, I find it helps. I also find it helps if I allow 5:00 to happen at 4:30 somedays, if you know what I mean. (I mean wine.)

Have you figured out a way to get through your kids’ witching hour? What’s your trick?