If you’ve had young kids before, then chances are you’re familiar with the “witching hour.” Every day 5 p.m. rolls around, you’re counting down the seconds until bedtime, and your kids suddenly become inconsolable, whiny, and basically a hot mess of tantrums. It seems like no matter what you do, the kids cannot be placated — and you’re too tired to deal with it.
This can be even more prevalent in the summertime when schedules are off and naps are skipped. One TikTok mom shared her brilliant parenting hack called “Whatever Makes You Happy Hour” for beating the witching hour blues while also giving her kids some autonomy to, well, just be kids.
At the same time? Parents get a little break, too.
What is Whatever Makes You Happy Hour?
Content creator and mom Jessie Meeks posted a video to her social media explaining that for one hour of the day, her kids get to pretty much do whatever they want (minus screen time). She calls it “Whatever Makes You Happy Hour.”
“Whatever Makes You Happy Hour is the time of the day where my husband and I sit back, relax, and let our kids be wild, free, and chaotic,” she explains in a voiceover.
“Today, we started off with an ice cube painting activity that progressively got messier and messier. However, this is typically the witching hour, so letting our kids be free, wild, and messy also helps alleviate our frustration if we just let it go, and we let them do whatever makes them happy.”
Meeks explains to Scary Mommy that the idea came to her during that moment in every parent’s day when an art project suddenly decends into chaos. Instead of stepping in and gaining some calm back into the moment, Meeks let the kids go wild.
“One day they wanted to paint, so of course we said yes!” she tells Scary Mommy.
“They started off painting an empty Amazon box outside, and quickly started painting their bodies. They were covered head to toe in paint, and then I realized I had given them acrylic paint instead of washable. Took a while to get that off…”
Despite the huge mess and inevitable clean up later, Meeks and her husband decided to let their kids get messy, release some pent up energy, and allow for some freedom in order to avoid any pre-bedtime meltdowns.
Another video showcases the hour where she and her husband “stop all attempts at parenting” and literally let her kids do “whatever they want.”
From wrestling to walks to yogurt messes to letting the kids get as loud as they want, Whatever Makes You Happy Hour (typically from 4-5 p.m.) allows Meeks to relax and her kids to burn off all their energy.
What are the rules for Whatever Makes You Happy Hour?
In another video, Meeks answers some follower’s questions about Whatever Makes You Happy Hour.
One user wondered if Meeks ever told her kids about the concept or announced it to them as a way to transition activities.
“Absolutely not,” Meeks wrote in text overlay. “If we told them we mentally checked out, we’d no longer have a standing house. It’s more of a mentality that Tyler and I take on around 4. We are just so tired by that time we just let them be free and feral.”
As for rules for the hour, the only thing Meeks and her husband care about is that the kids are not allowed to watch TV.
“I want all their energy out, so that 7 PM bedtime is a breeze,” she wrote.
Wondering how to cap off the hour so that kids don’t meltdown that messy, fun time is done? The hour ends when dinner is served.
“Dinner signals the end and we snap back to reality and try to eat like a civilized family,” Meeks explains.
Does Whatever Makes You Happy Hour work?
Parents who have a hard time relinquishing control may see Meeks parenting hack and shudder at the thought of messy kids and the cleanup that will follow. She recommends that parents ease themselves into Whatever Makes You Happy Hour to make it seem more palatable at first.
“If mess or losing control makes parents nervous or anxious, I totally get that. Start by letting them having this hour outside where things can be cleaned up easier. Or if outdoors isn’t an option, put away all the messy toys or activities, and tell them they are free to play with whatever is out!” she recommends.
Turns out, science encourages kids to get messy. In fact, research suggests that allowing kids to get messy can make them better learners.
Researchers at the University of Iowa decided to study how 16-month-old children develop language skills from nonsolid objects such as oatmeal and glue. What they found is that if you put a toddler in a familiar setting — for this study they used the high chair — and give them nonsolids, they learn the names of nonsolids faster.
The study found that the “toddlers who interacted the most with the foods were more likely to correctly identify them by their texture and name them.”
One user commented on the video, applauding Meeks for her willingness to just let her kids get a little messy and have fun.
“And they will thank you for it! The sensory experiences and input does wonders… they are just doing them while you do you… love this!!!” they wrote.
Meeks stresses the power that Whatever Makes You Happy Hour can totally alter how a family operates. With relaxed and de-stressed parents, kids can also feel regulated, leading to less fighting and meltdowns.
Meeks concluded, “It’s actually very freeing to say yes to what they want to do, and it’s so fun to watch them play, explore, get messy and then learn the responsibility of cleaning up.”
Might be time to host a Whatever Makes You Happy Hour at your house.