Have You Talked with Your Kids About Cheating Yet? You Should!

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I remembered to have this conversation with my kids every time they told me of a cheating incident at their school and the phrase I used was, “Take the D.” If it is a choice between cheating and getting a lower grade, take the D. I tried to convince them that they would rather face my short-lived disappointment with a poor grade than my devastation, humiliation and sadness at my failures in parenting and their faulty moral compass. I let them know that far from going to bat for them, if they were found to be cheating, I would let them burn in the fires of both their school’s and our home’s disciplinary hell.

Cheating is contagious. Not surprisingly, kids will more easily slide into such behaviors if their friends are engaging in academic dishonesty. While we cannot pick our children’s friends and are unlikely to know what goes on inside the testing room, we can face the issue head on with explicit recognition that they will see such behavior and it is to be shunned. It is a chance to remind them of the coda of parenting: “I don’t care what other kids do, I am only raising you and your siblings and these are the rules in our home.”

Young kids may not always know cheating when they see it and it may help them to talk through scenarios they will encounter. There is a spectrum that runs from helping to plagiarizing and even very young children will need to determine with some precision where various activities lie in this very broad range. Parents can help them by expounding on different situations in which students might find themselves. A classmate may text you a question about a problem. If you give them some help and they are in study hall that is helping; if they are in the exam room, cheating.

This is an important, life changing conversation. Our children are living in a world where their sporting heroes are regularly felled by violations of well-known rules and they see adult behavior that would suggest that poor moral choices lead to desirable outcomes. This is a conversation that needs to begin early and happen often and it must be just that -- a conversation -- because situations and ethical dilemmas that we never faced will confront our kids every day. It will ultimately be one of the most important conversations we will have because it touches the heart of everything we hope to do as parents in raising good people and good citizens.

 

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Photo Credit: Svadilfari.

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