What to do if your child cheats

Does your child cheat?
Just about everyone does at some point in their lives. Most young cheaters never become career criminals - but that doesn't mean parents should let them off the hook.

Four reasons why kids cheat:

  • They fear falling behind in school.
  • They are pressured to succeed by parents or others.
  • Very young kids don't understand that it's wrong.
  • For older kids, cheating's easy and accessible, thanks to technology.

What are some red flags to watch for?

  • Your child suddenly gets all the hard spelling words right.
  • Your student hands in an essay that's just too polished.
  • Your child cheats at board games at home.
  • The teacher catches your child copying someone's paper.

Seven things parents should do if their child is cheating:

- Don't ignore it, but try not to overreact - Keep your cool. This isn't the time to jump to conclusions or dole out the punishments, especially if your child is very young. Many first and second graders don't even realize it's wrong.

- Explain why cheating is wrong - This is a great time to talk about values such as honesty, fairness and responsibility. Consider yourself lucky - you've earned a "teachable moment."

- Confront your child, but stay calm - Don't let it go, even if the cheating is as minor as fudging on a board game. He needs to know that it is not tolerated - at home or at school.

- Express disappointment with what he or she did - It's important to let your child know you are not pleased - and you do not approve of this kind of behavior.

- Talk to your child and get to the root of why he's cheating.- It's important to have a measured, calm discussion with your child. You should ask questions such as, "would you feel better getting a good grade because you earned it or because you copied someone's paper?"

- Don't assume your child is on the verge of a major problem - Chances are, you peeked over a shoulder or two yourself at some point in school. And you didn't become a criminal. Your child won't either. Keep it all in perspective.

- If the cheating continues, meet with the teacher - If your child is still cheating at the middle school level, look for reasons behind it. Was it a one-time mistake - or a call from help from a stress-out child? Get feedback from your child's teacher and find out just how serious he or she feels the problem is. As kids get older, the consequences become more severe. Some schools expel students for cheating. That's why parents need to stay on top of it - and nip it in the bud.

Buy this book on Amazon: Beyond Smart

About author Linda Morgan:
Linda Morgan, a Seattle area writer and editor, has written on a wide range of subjects for a variety of newspapers and magazines. A former college communications and journalism instructor, Morgan's work is particularly focused on education and learning. She is currently associate editor of ParentMap, where she authors "Getting School Ready" a monthly column that explores issues in education. She also discusses learning-related topics regularly on Seattle's NBC affiliate station, KING-TV. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, with a journalism masters from UCLA, she has been recognized both regionally and nationally with numerous journalism awards. Morgan lives on Mercer Island with her husband, Michael.

For more information, visit Linda's website.

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