Top Tips for Surviving the Witching Hour

Top Tips for Surviving the Witching Hour
Butter wouldn’t melt…

The time between my kids finishing their tea and falling asleep is often fraught in our house. With the needs of three children to meet all at once it can get very hairy indeed, and this week has been a shocker. When friends ask me how I hold it together, I tell them truthfully that some evenings I barely escape with my sanity in tact. Other evenings though I’m high fiving myself for managing to get both girls in bed, and baby feeding, by 6:15pm.

I’ve definitely noticed certain patterns in the midst of three years worth of bedtime-maggedon, so thought I’d share my top tips for dealing with sensitive or challenging children during the witching hour.

No Choice / No Surprises

I’m all for giving my kids plenty of choice, but once tea time rolls around I do the deciding. My eldest gets overwhelmed at the end of the day and if I bombard her with choice she can’t cope. We discuss what we’re having for dinner in the morning, and I make sure that I stick to the plan. A slight deviation from it can send her into a complete spin.

When you have challenging children on your hands, it’s paramount that you devise a bedtime routine that works for your family, and stick to it like glue. I keep weekday evenings after school very low key with the girls eating tea by 4:30pm, by which time the baby is either finished or almost finished his. They have some telly while I give him a bath, then we all head upstairs between 5:30-5:45pm. I’ve stopped letting 5yo have an evening bath, because it was hyping her up too much, but 3yo still has one because it calms her down. While little lady relaxes in the water, I help her sister get ready for bed.

Put Them Down Early

For whatever reasons, 5yo is a terrible sleeper. I honestly can’t remember when she last went the entire night without waking up, and just last week she was up eight times during a three hour period. According to the experts, children her age should be getting 10-12 hours solid shut eye every single night, and she sometimes only gets seven or eight broken hours. She is usually so tired upon finishing her dinner that she says she can’t walk up the stairs and needs to be carried.

Our only defense against the wake-ups and sleep deprivation is for her to go to bed between 6-6:30pm. So many people (that have kids who go to bed and stay there until the morning) have said to me over the years that I should try putting her to bed later. Believe me this method does not work for poor sleepers, they get over tired and either act hyper-actively or go into meltdown mode. Then it takes even longer to get them into bed because you have to calm them down and wait for them to snap out of it. When she’s asleep by 6:30 she sleeps best, when it creeps towards 7pm and later hubby and I brace ourselves, because we know what’s coming!

Run for your life little man!Keep Calm

This is so much easier said than done when the little-uns are running rings around us, but it’s so important. As soon as I lose my temper my task of getting them into bed becomes ten times harder. I wrote a post recently about eradicating negative parenting behaviour, which explains in more detail why shouting is so bad for the kids.

Especially at bedtime they need us to be super calm. Getting upset stimulates production of the fight or flight hormone cortisol, which can sometimes be the root cause of the wake ups. It is certainly a factor in our little family, and when our daughter has a meldown before bed she always wakes up in the night. I’m not perfect at all, and I have lost my cool over the years more times than I care to admit. Since being mindful and trying my hardest to remain calm though, I have definitely noticed improvements. 

What are your top tips for surviving the witching hour? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below πŸ™‚

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64 thoughts on “Top Tips for Surviving the Witching Hour

  1. I’m just hoping they grow out of it! It’s the crappest time of the day. Get your other half to do it and make sure there is plenty of wine in is my top tip #wineandboobies

  2. Love this! I’m constantly trying to think of ways to get through this! When they’re finally in bed, I almost collapse from the energy spent getting me through those hours! Thank God for wine πŸ˜‰ lol #wineandboobs

  3. staying calm is easier said than done, as you say! I definitely notice my son acts ups if I am on edge or not calm as he picks up on that negative energy. We aim for 7pm to bed after a story and we put them both down together. I tried separate routines to make it less hectic but it actually works better if my two have the exact same bedtime routine and ‘to bed’ time. It’s crazy from 5-7pm and I just accept that’s what it is!

  4. Wow I take my hat off to you, all sounds very challenging!!
    I have one of each, a 6yo who has always slept and is hard to get up and a 1yo who doesn’t like sleep much at all. I’ve always had a bed time routine in place for them both, I think routine is very important for little ones and so is a calm environment. Early bed times wouldn’t work for my 1yo as he would be wide awake an ready to start the day again by 4am, regardless of the night awakenings. Good luck to you with your three, sleep deprivation is torture x

  5. Great post! I’ve been fortunate that all 3 haven’t needed a solid routine. Very lucky! I do know a lot of parents that needed that routine and stuck to it no matter what! Thank you for linking @wineandboobs

  6. Gosh, I really sympathise with you and your poor sleeping 5 yo…I think this is what Reuben is becoming. I’ve no idea what triggered it and why (I blamed teeth and then the clocks going back…!) but R now takes forEVER to get to settle. We’ve got him a Gro Clock and everything πŸ˜‰ But I do think things like supper and bath time, both make him go from sleepy to wide awake again…I might try putting him down a bit earlier too.

    Great post Renee, thanks for sharing (and linking up!) xx #TheList

  7. I have to say hon, the bedtime juggle is by far the hardest of them all. Sounds like you guys have such a lovely rhythm and Arthur certainly sounds like a very happy chappy because of it. It’s all about finding what works best for you and the kids isn’t it xx

  8. That sounds like a lot of fun my lovely. Just goes to show how different kids are, mine would be so wound up after dancing that I’d have no chance of getting them to sleep πŸ˜‰ Glad it worked for you and Grace though xx

  9. Oh the witching hour *Shudder* My 9 month old sounds like your 5 year old in that trying to force a later bedtime just makes matters so much worse. This is a really good list, especially regarding limiting choices after school, I think young children do sometimes need to just have decisions made for them because it can get too much for them. Great post! xx #TheList

  10. It must be so tough juggling the three of them! Bedtime happens quite a bit later in our house – partly so that Arthur can see his daddy and partly because it just seems to fit his natural rhythms. The first two years were a real struggle getting him to sleep any other way than feeding (sometimes for over an hour!) and he’d wake up for more booba several times in the night. He’s really settled down now and will happily cuddle up in his bed awake after a quick feed sometime between 8 & 9pm and (usually) sleep through till about 7am. I know it could all still go wrong again but I’m enjoying it while it lasts!! xx

  11. All I can say is enjoy this while it lasts πŸ™‚ you might get lucky and never have any bedtime dramas, but if there’s one thing I’ve learnt it’s to relish the good times while they are acomin’!!!

  12. It really does, and I think if you kids that have boundless energy and sleep solidly, you would be more inclined to let them stay up later and not worry about it. When you don’t, routine and early to bed is the key… saying that we’re staying overnight in Brighton this evening, so it’s all going to go out the window… wish me luck! Have a fab weekend hon xx

  13. Daddy’s seem to be a major culprit in getting the kids all worked up, you would have thought they would be on the Mummy’s side!! Naughty Daddy x

  14. You’re spot on there Jenni, the slightest upset when everyone is exhausted, can lead to an hours meltdown. Not fun!! Have a fab weekend hon xx

  15. I think the overload of choice makes life so much harder than it needs to be, totally agree that little ones will tend to run away with the options…

  16. That is good to know hon, so in about four years time it’ll be all good in my house too πŸ˜‰ tee hee, in all seriousness those four years are going to go super fast so I should start cherishing even the bedtime bits… not sure my positive parenting goes that far though!! Have a fab weekend hon xx

  17. I’m so chuffed it helped my lovely, getting them down earlier really is the key if they aren’t great in the sleeping department! Have a fab weekend x

  18. School holidays can be really tough routine wise, because everything goes out the window and it can be challenging to reign it back in. Best of luck lovely, really hope these tips help. Have a fab weekend xx

  19. Definitely best to err on the side of early Tim. The juggle of three kids at bedtime/during the night might just be my biggest challenge at the mo!

    Thanks for dropping by and have a lovely weekend πŸ™‚

  20. Bedtime can be absolutely horrendous at times, and if I’m not on my game they it’s all over. We have a pretty good routine which started when Mademoiselle was young but went completely out the window when Little Mister turned up! He refused to get into any routine so my Witching Hour lasted for 15 months and it was horrendous! We always have a bit of music TV to get that final burst of energy out of them before starting our bath & book routine which gets them to sleep…the only thing is I have to listen to One Direction and Taylor Swift every night *screams!* Great tip & a good #WOTW

  21. I can relate to this. The witching hour, when we are all exhausted after a busy day and on our last leg, can dreadful. It is usually worse when we are desperate for them to get to sleep so we can get on with stuff. They sense it and fight sleep… I agree with you re. routine. With 3 little ones in one room, we end up with quite a bit of mischief, and I cannot begin to imagine what it will be like when Wriggly joins her sibling in the room, ha ha!

  22. I can relate to all of these. Having a set routine definitely makes a big difference to us – the timing may vary a little but the process is fairly consistent. The kids pretty much know what they will be doing when from tea-time through to lights-out.

    We’ve also found that it’s better to err on the side of getting them started too early rather than too late – once one of them reaches the point of being over-tired, the whole routine starts to creak for all three of them. It’s definitely better for us to start a bit earlier and treat them to an extra story or two if needed.

  23. I need to print these out lady, such wise words, kids are going to bed later and later too due to the holidays but school starts again next week and all change is afoot x

  24. I too dread 6-7pm, it always goes downhill when the girls are tired. I do my best to keep it calm and relaxed often with a bath but daddy tends to wind the girls up if he is home and I know there will be tears if he does it. we have a routine and stick to it too. #pocolo

  25. I try to move from food, to bath, to story, to bed. It doesn’t always work as some days the timing are different because of after school activities of the big kids #PoCoLo

  26. A great post! I have to say that we are thorough those years thankfully. My 5 and 7 year old can cope now after tea…although I remember those days you describe only too well. The only problem we have now is 7 year old being very clingy and worried that when she goes to sleep I am going to disappear. Very odd. Anyway, I digress. Things get better! That is my tip…to always bear that in mind. And walk away to a different room when you get fed up!!!

  27. Tips? I think you’re asking the wrong person – you have it sorted! I absolutely agree that a routine is super important. My ‘difficult one’ also got terribly upset if we ever deviated from it, fairness is paramount and essential in her life. I respect that and on the whole, try to stick to a routine even now. Last night, when she came into me at midnight, I was reminded that yet again, I need to keep my cool when she’s driving me up the wall! They do get quite hyped and it’s then very difficult to settle her again. And she’s 13! x x

  28. Great post! Really insightful we totally agree with remaining calm and positive. Winding down and taking control. My mummy and daddy make choices for me to make life easier…as soon as you start giving little ones an option they will run with it!! #TheList #PoCoLo #BrilliantBlogPosts

  29. We have finally got into some sort of a bedtime routine, but it kept creeping later and later so we have had to make an effort to sneak it earlier, and Boo seems to be better for it, though time will tell.
    Bedtime seems to be one of those things which is so easy to upset and takes a long time to set it right again!

  30. Bedtime can be an absolute nightmare and I agree with you about putting poor sleepers down earlier rather than later. Although I suppose in the end it does depend upon the individual. Staying calm is the biggest challenge of all I think! Some great tips x

  31. Good tips. Bedtime is ways tough, you just never know how it’s going to go. We have quiet time after dinner using quiet activities like puzzles and colouring which has really helped us.

  32. Z loves story time and we get through a pile of books. Then he makes my hubby make up stories for him (that bit doesn’t actually wind him down if im honest!) but it does make him sit and start relaxing. That hour is tiring!

  33. The house before teatime is the witching hour here – 2 grumpy, hungry kids (not too mention a tired, grumpy mummy!). I find that once tea is done, it’s straight into the bath and things just flow (oh and daddy gets home and mummy has a glass of wine which probably helps!). I do find that they like routine and exactly the same thing happening – glass of milk, 3 stories, music on etc etc and that deflects any arguments.

  34. This sounds so stressful. We have a one year old and I dread to think he is going to start kicking off about bedtime. At the moment he just happily goes to sleep at 7pm. Wakes up when he’s poorly or teething but otherwise great.
    Do many toddlers start being tricky in the evenings? If he does I will certainly look back at your advice. Hope things get easier for you soon. πŸ™‚

  35. Some good tips, thanks. This time is crazy in our house too, so we try to go for a walk between dinner and bedtime, to get rid of some energy and have some connection time too.


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