Tuesday, April 14, 2009

DCMM: The Witching Hour

-3 As parents, we all know about the "witching hours," that period of the day during which your children consistently conspire to drive you insane with whining, crying, and squabbling. I think the witching hours fall between 4 and 6 p.m. for most families, although 7 p.m. to midnight were always quite the witching hours when my children were infants.

Now that my kids are in school, I've managed to do pretty well with that 4 to 6 p.m. time slot, what with the judicious use of a right-after-school homework schedule, quiet playtime, television, and snacks.

My new witching time now falls right when my kids get off the bus after school. It usually only lasts a few minutes, but it is brutal.

If Sam, the oldest, is disappointed in any way in that first three minutes, then he has a total meltdown right there in the street. And because I have to get him and my other two children (who have been known to take off running for home by themselves) down the street and around the corner safely to our house, it can be a frustrating and stressful situation.

The reasons for his meltdowns are, I believe, threefold:

1. He has been good all day long at school and he's finally found someone to let it all out on. (Yay! That person is me!)

2. He gets dragged to my middle child's speech and occupational therapy sessions, and he's getting tired of it. If he is reminded that we're going, he will often start screaming, "I'm not going! I'm not going!" (It's not so much that he hates going, but going has social repercussions. See #3.)

3. A friend that he loves to death and loves to have playdates with lives almost literally AT the bus stop. If I say no to a playdate, especially for reason #2 above, well, then let the whining commence. (This reason is really the most explosive. If his friend isn't on the bus for some reason, he's usually much mellower.)

I'm pretty much at the end of my rope. I've tried all the traditional methods of dealing with these outbursts: yelling, threatening, pretending to leave him behind. I've also tried to reason with him and sympathize with him, but none of it seems to work.

So I've resorted to a sticker chart.

Now he has to earn playdates by not whining and yelling when he gets off the bus. It worked for the one school day before spring break. I'm hoping it will work again this week.

I'm pretty sure that I haven't eliminated the witching hour from our lives. If I manage to get this one under control, I'm sure it will just slide to a new time in our day. However, maybe that new time will at least be at home without spectators.

Original DC Metro Moms Blog post.

Jean also writes about her parenting challenges at Stimeyland.

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