Help Them Not to Cheat

This article is an excerpt out of Ideas for Parents: A Collection of Tips, Insights, and Activities for Real-World Parenting by Mark Matlock and Christopher Lyon.  For more information on this book and/or to purchase it, please click here.

Why do so many students cheat in school – and what can we do about it? That’s the question that motivated Jay Mathews to write a Washington Post column entitled “How to Handle Students Cheating.” However, his suggestions run along the lines of encouraging teachers to be smarter.

But teachers can only be so smart when it comes to preventing cheating. The real first line of defense is to capture the hearts of students–to convince them that not only is it wrong to cheat, but also that it matters if they do wrong. Unless students commit to refuse to cheat under any circumstances, cheating will continue.

If you ever want to have a great conversation about the nature of truth and situational morality, ask a roomful of teenagers if it’s ever okay to cheat. Even many Christian students who openly swear allegiance to God’s Word will often make a tortured cased for the “okay-ness…sometimes” of cheating. They’d rather you not try to equate cheating in school with lying or stealing, and they squirm when you quote passages such as Proverbs 20:23–“The LORD detests differing weights, and dishonest scales do not please him.”

As parents we have two roles to play. One involves teaching the morality (and wisdom!) of truth-telling and courageous peer-resisting to our kids from the time they are quite young. The other one is harder: It’s being willing to accept the facts that, yes, my kid might be cheating too. Parents are often the last ones to believe.

That was demonstrated several years ago in the results of a coordinated survey of parents and teens about cheating with cellphones (as reported in a U.S. News & World Report article, “One Third of Teens Use Cellphones to Cheat in School”):

“More than 75 percent of parents responding to the survey say that cellphone cheating happens at their children’s school, but only 3 percent believe their own teen is using a cellphone to cheat.”

How about you? What’s your approach to knowing whether or not your kids are cheating–or how do you plan to respond if they admit to it or get caught? Do you have a strategy to intentionally address cheating before it becomes an issue with your son or daughter?