5 Ways to Survive Your Child's Witching Hour

Regardless of what you call it, there seems to be a crazed time of the day, usually between the hours of 4pm and 6pm, when most babies and young children fall apart.  Whether you’re a working or stay-at-home parent, Mighty Mommy's 5 tips will help you not only survive, but even thrive during the dreaded witching hour.

Cheryl Butler
6-minute read
Episode #266

You walk through the door, lay your laptop case on the kitchen counter, and before you can even greet your kids, your toddler tears off his pull-up and proceeds to run through the house naked, the twins fight over who will show you his library book first, and the dog decides to bark his brains off because your babysitter’s boyfriend has just arrived on his motorcycle which seems to be missing a muffler.  Welcome to the witching hour.

Regardless of what you call it, there seems to be a crazed time of the day, usually right before dinner, when most babies and children fall apart.  Wailing, whining, arguing, rambunctious behavior, you name it. During this taxing time, parents are faced with the most stressful part of their parenting day and do everything in their power just to survive!.

Stay calm and put your broom stick back in the closet. Whether you’re a working or stay-at-home parent, Mighty Mommy's 5 favorite tips  will help you not only survivebut thrive during the dreaded witching hour.

Tip #1:  Transition Yourself First

If you’ve been on the go all day, either at the office or at home caring for kids non-stop, as you approach the dinner hour you are probably feeling frazzled and are working on near-empty patience.  In order to keep from losing your mind as well as your temper, you need to switch gears and leave professional and/or parenting obligations at the front door and take care of one or two personal needs before handling your wired kids and your dinner.

See also: 5 Ways That ‘Selfish Parenting’ Can Benefit Your Family


Create some unwinding rituals for yourself such as parking the car in the driveway when returning from work and listening to some relaxing music while taking a few deep breaths before heading inside. If you’ve been home all day, have a cup of tea or a glass of sparkling water (or wine) while looking through a magazine for 10 minutes. 

Whatever you choose, find something that will signal your transition from the day's insanity.  When I stayed at home full-time with my 8 kids, I transitioned into the evening hours by reading one or two chapters from a novel.  We didn’t watch a lot of TV during the day, so I saved a 15-minute sing-a-long DVD for them to watch at about 4:30pm, which allowed me to sit quietly in the kitchen and escape with a quick read.  By the time the DVD was over, I would easily complete 2 chapters and felt a little more refreshed and ready to handle dinner preparations and cranky kids.

See also: 8 Ways to Lighten Your Parenting Load


Tip #2:  Connect and Show Affection

Once you’ve allowed yourself 10 minutes to decompress, you can jump right in and spend some time reconnecting with your child. Put your cell phone aside, grab a story and sit on the couch together and cuddle and read for 10 minutes. Or if the weather is nice, go outside and take a walk or play in the backyard for a bit so that your child can both burn off some energy and realize that you’re home and ready to be with him for the next few hours.  These things don’t need to take a lot of time but if you stop and give your child some attention and affection, you will set the pace for a more calm evening rather than rushing through the door late from work and launching yourself into making dinner on the fly.

See also: How Routines Can Simplify Your Life


If there’s something you really must do right away, ask your child if she will help you.  Maybe the cat needs to be fed and she can help fill the water bowl or the towels that have been sitting in the washer all day need to be tossed in the dryer.  Let her be your helper for any task that she can contribute to, which allows her to feel responsible and gives the two of you some extra time in the process.    


About the Author

Cheryl Butler

Cheryl L. Butler is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. Call the Mighty Mommy listener line at 401-284-7575 to ask a parenting question. Your call could be featured on the show!