So the school asks you to drop by because your child is involved in a cheating incident.
You are suddenly stumped.
Since when did your child develop this unpleasant behavior? What did you miss? He/she is in still elementary; isn't he/she too young to be taking such ghastly risks?
Before you begin to self-blame or yell at your child, let us find out what leads to cheating behavior.
Why do children cheat?
Cheating is often a symptom of a bigger concern our children can face. It may emerge from academic pressure, pressure from parents who want their children to be over-achievers, poor time management skills or confusion as to what may be an acceptable behavior or not. Very Well Family cites reasons why children end up cheating in school.
1. Confusion about academic dishonesty
Kids can get confused with what is okay and what’s not and are potentially not yet able to grasp the difference between collaborating, paraphrasing, and cheating or plagiarism.
2. Academic pressure
Kids can get overwhelmed with other obligations like sports practice, music lessons, chores, while still worrying about getting a perfect grade. The mounting pressure can lead them to cut corners somewhere and they could end up cheating on tests.
3. Lack of motivation
Students who are not motivated enough may tend to cheat because they can consider it as path to least resistance.
4. Peer pressure
Some kids don’t know how to say ‘no’ and there’s a chance that your child might not be the one copying someone else’s work and quite the one who is giving answers—still, it does not change the fact that your child is involved in cheating.
How to handle your child cheating on tests
1. Stay calm.
Breathe in, breathe out. It is easy to be enraged especially when you think of how this embarrassing situation can disrupt your day’s schedule, or probably how you raise your kid is now being put into question or imagining that your character and values as a parent will be judged as well. Reacting with anger or disappointment may hinder effective communication and make the child either clam up or become more defensive.
2. Keep it private.
Cheating happens with the goal of not getting caught. To be caught is already embarrassing in itself so lashing out on your child in public will make the situation more embarrassing. By keeping it private, you create a safe space for a more open and honest conversation.
3. Ask for their version of the story.
Ask open-ended questions and let them tell you about their version of the story. Try to understand where this kind of behavior is coming from. Is it academic pressure, peer pressure, is the subject too difficult to understand, is it a subtle form of bullying, or is it simply for fun’s sake?
4. Listen with all ears.
If a child is being honest and when what they are saying becomes something that you do not want to hear, it is easy to interrupt and utter negative words and commentaries. Save that for later. For now, give the child an opportunity to come clean. Listen attentively and try to understand their motivations without interrupting.
5. Express disapproval of the behavior.
It is easy to express disapproval and blame your child because your parenting style has now been placed in such a bad light. But after hearing their side of the story and the motivation behind it, make it clear that cheating is a behavior that is not acceptable. Focus on the behavior and not your child. Be careful enough not to label your child because at a young age, they listen to you and they become what you call them.
6. Discuss the behavior and let them face consequences.
Explain the consequences of cheating and let your child face it, even if it means getting zero for the exams or being suspended because of it. If bad behavior leads to no consequence, your child may repeat it and simply become more keen on not getting caught. However, if academic integrity and personal development is placed on the line as a consequence, your child be might be more mindful about it. Help the child understand the importance of honesty and the long-term impact of cheating on their education and character.
7. Allow them to be accountable for their actions.
Encourage the child to take responsibility for their actions. Have them acknowledge the mistake and allow them to take initiatives to rectify it, such as confessing to the teacher and preparing properly for future examinations.
8. Collaborate on solving the problem.
Collaborate with the child on finding constructive solutions to the issues that led to cheating. This might involve seeking extra help, managing time more effectively to juggle study time and extra-curricular activities, putting an end to bullying, or finding apt ways to cope with stress.
9. Charge it to experience and move on.
Reinforce the idea that mistakes are opportunities to learn and grow and create a growth mindset. You cannot keep on hammering the embarrassing behavior against your child’s face after you have worked out the reason and resolution. Focus on how turning negative situations into a learning experience.
10. Be their role model for honesty and integrity.
It is an opportunity for self-check. Do we often cut corners, skip the line, ask them to keep secret of our inappropriate behavior or lie through our teeth in front of our child? We are not perfect and nobody is. But if we show them that lying or cheating is typical behavior, then we unconsciously send the message that it is “normal” and acceptable.