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How to Talk to Your Kids About Cheating

Experts say cheating in schools is an epidemic, but most parents think their kid would never do it. Below are tips and facts about cheating from Rosalind Wiseman Rosalind—a writer and educator on ethical leadership:

How to Talk to Your Kids About Cheating

Teaching our children honesty and why not to cheat can be more complicated than it seems. Why? Because we live in a world of mixed messages where often the external rewards of winning often seem to outweigh the internal rewards of achieving honestly. From reality show characters who boast, “I didn’t come here to make friends,” as a way to justify undermining and deceiving competitors to athletes taking performance enhancing drugs, our children often see adults acting the opposite of what many parents want to teach their children.

Here are some tips about cheating to share with your children:

  • It’s not enough to tell your children, “Be honest,” or “Do the right thing.” Talk to them about specific situations where being honest will be hard like seeing the questions before the test and what you expect them to do.
  • Use the bad role models in the media as examples. When you see someone in the news who has cheated or been dishonest, ask your child why they think their behavior is against your family values.
  • Admit that it doesn’t always feel good to be honest.

If your child is caught cheating here’s what you can do:

  • Dig deep. Sometimes children cheat because they feel tremendous pressure to get the high grade or win the game. You need to find out why it was so important to them to achieve their goal that they were willing to do so dishonestly.
  • Remind them the faster they admit what they’ve done the less anxious they’ll feel, and the less trouble they’ll probably get in.
  • Don’t let your anxiety rationalize getting him out of trouble. It’s easy to be so worried about the long term impact having something on a student’s permanent record, but if you truly want to raise a child with integrity and self-confidence he has to see that you 1) Will hold him accountable when it counts 2) Believe he has the strength of character to get through the process.
  • Express disappointment but see this as the learning opportunity that it is.
  • Your kid may get really angry at you for holding them accountable and that’s ok.

It’s likely your children will face a situation where their honesty is tested. And it’s possible that they will make a mistake and cheat or lie. Remember for most of us, our integrity is developed only through a process of being tested and having adults we respect guide us along the way.




Rosalind Wiseman is a writer and educator on ethical leadership and media literacy, and bullying prevention. She is the author of Queen Bees and Wannabes and is currently working on a book for parents of boys.