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What parents need to know about common excuses their child uses

HOUSTON – Between morning mayhem and bedtime battles, your routine could take much longer if you hear these excuses.

Menninger Clinic psychologist Alton Bozeman said this is what parents need to know about what these phrases mean:

HEARD DURING BEDTIME BATTLES:

“I NEED TO GO TO THE BATHROOM” OR “I WANT A SNACK”

Bozeman said these stall tactics are a reflection of the child not knowing their bedtime routine.

“What we recommend is for the parents and the child to have a routine and for the routine to be concrete enough that … I can say, 'What is your bedtime routine?’ and they can repeat it,” Bozeman said.

SUGGESTED BEDTIME ROUTINE:

-- Dinner at a similar time every night
-- Homework done at the same time
-- A bath and storytime (or time to relax)
-- Then sleep

"In the beginning, yes, they're going to still push their boundaries and test the limits of it but eventually, if the parents hold firm then they're going to realize, 'There's no point in me asking for that 10 p.m. drink of milk because I already know that Mom's going to say no,' because the routine has been established," Bozeman said.

HEARD DURING MORNING MAYHEM:

“I FORGOT SOMETHING” OR “I CAN’T FIND SOMETHING”

Saying they don't know where their backpack is, where their shoes are, where they left their homework may be as simple as a lack of organization.

Make sure there’s a designated location for each item that’s needed in a hurry when headed to school.

"I HAVE A STOMACHACHE”

When it comes to kids avoiding school with claims of a stomachache or headache to a point you know it can't be true, Bozeman said it could signal something deeper.

"Generally speaking, if we know that it's being repeated too often for it to be real, we know that they maybe have school-related anxiety. Then we want to focus on anxiety. So we want to help our children learn effective coping skills and encourage them to use good coping skills to counter anxiety."

Bozeman said that can involve deep breathing, helping to put things into perspective and asking what concerns them.

If you just ask "are you anxious?" you probably won’t get a straight answer. Bozeman recommends asking questions like "What worries you about school?" The broader question might help give more insight so you can help reassure them that these are typical back-to-school feelings or help them put it into perspective if they're reacting more strongly than they should.