Oct. 3, 2018

Why 5 to 8 p.m. Is The Worst: How To Handle the After-School Crankies

5 to 8 p.m. is the worst. Nap-skipping toddlers melting down, babies in “witching hour” mode, 6th graders crying over homework— just when we’re also exhausted from our own very full days. Here’s how to make pickup-to-bedtime a little bit easier.

Ask any parent: 5 to 8 p.m. is the hardest time of day. When kids are little, the toddler’s melting down because she skipped his nap at the same time her baby brother begins observation of his daily “witching hour.”

 When kids are big, you need to get them three places at the same time while also being home to make dinner— and then make sure everyone gets to bed on time (kidding, that is seriously never going to happen).

 If it makes you feel any better, there’s a reason kids save up their worst behavior for their home environment. Parenting expert and educator Andrea Loewen Nair calls what happens between pickup and bedtime “after school restraint collapse.” As Ms. Nair explains:

It takes a great deal of energy, mental motivation, emotional containment, and physical restraint to keep ourselves at our best for other people while at work, daycare, or school.

There’s the rub: Mom and Dad are also exhausted from a full day of behaving like a normal human being for the rest of the world. No wonder this time of day is so bad. But fear not— this episode is full of ideas and strategies for making this time of day a little easier, like:

always having a steak to throw to the angry bear

what to say to cranky after-schoolers besides “how was your day?”

providing age-appropriate decompression strategies

moving the acceptable time for pajamas to be worn earlier and earlier as the days get shorter

Here’s links to the research and other great ideas discussed in this episode:


Colleen Seto for Today’s Parent: After-School Restraint Collapse is a Real Thing. Here’s How To Deal With It


Alice Bradley for Lifehacker: Stop Asking Your Kid About Their Day

Heather Marcoux for Motherly: After-school restraint collapse is real—here’s how to help your child

Justine Lorelle LaMonaco for Motherly: If your kids act worse around you, there might be a (very good) reason why

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