How to talk to kids about cheating

Cheating ramps up during middle school, where just over 60 percent of students reported cheating on exams and 90 percent admitted to copying another students’ homework,” writes Jessica Lahey. In high school, 75 percent of students admit to academic dishonesty. Parents should talk to their children about cheating.

Don’t assume your child understands the difference between collaborating and cheating, paraphrasing and plagiarism. Brush up on the definition of plagiarism and the reason we give others credit for their work. Discuss the realities of cheating: Academic dishonesty can destroy her reputation as an honorable person, not to mention her relationships with teachers.

Next, ask why she’s cheating and discuss your concerns with the teacher, Lahey advises. Most parents resort to denial when their child is accused of cheating.  Admitting it will “go a long way toward reinforcing the partnership between you and your child’s teacher.”

Don’t help too much with homework. One in five adults admits completing part of a child’s homework assignment.  “Let your child discover her own answers.”

Finally, if you catch your child cheating, don’t cover for her. Take this opportunity, while she is still young and the stakes are still low, to hold her accountable for the consequences of her actions.

Lisa Heffernan, writer of the parenting blog Grown and Flown, offers advice for parents: Convince your kids they’d rather face “my short-lived disappointment with a poor grade rather than my devastation, humiliation and sadness at my failures in parenting and their faulty moral compass.”

Cheaters don’t want to ‘be a cheater’

People like to think of themselves as “basically honest,” even though they’re willing to cheat, writes Dan Willingham in An Easy Trick to Reduce Cheating.

An experimenter asked people on the Stanford campus to play a game to determine “the rate of cheating” (or “the number of cheaters”) without knowing who’s “cheating” (“a cheater”).

Subjects were asked to pick a number from 1 to 10, and then were told that if they had picked an even number they would receive $5, but if the number were odd, they would receive nothing.

When the experimenter used the word “cheater” 21% of subjects reported having picked an even number, but when “cheating” was used, 50% did. (Other research has shown that there is a strong bias to pick odd numbers in the task; that’s why the rates are so low.)

It should work with students in middle or high school, Willingham thinks.

In short, the ideal is to remind people of their best side, their good intentions, and then remind them that cheating–sorry, being a cheater–is not compatible with their image of themselves.

At the end of sophomore year in high school, my daughter told me that a classmate had stolen the Spanish teacher’s book, photocopied all the tests and returned the book.  The cheater had given copies of the tests to any student who wanted them. My daughter was in the small minority who refused to cheat. “I would have had to come up with some reason why it was OK to cheat,” she said. “And then I’d have been a cheat and a liar. Why would I do that to myself?”

Cheater’s parents sue school

Caught copying another student’s homework, a California sophomore was kicked out of honors English. His parents admit he cheated, violating the Academic Honesty Pledge he’d signed at the start of the year. But the cheater’s parents are suing, claiming the teen’s due process rights were violated, reports the San Jose Mercury News. The boy’s father, Jack Berghouse, said the punishment is too severe and could make it harder for his son to get into a top college.

The school offered to let the boy enter the International Baccalaureate program in 11th and 12th grade with others in the honors track and to keep the cheating incident off his transcript. But that wasn’t enough for the parents.

In a Mercury News poll, 84 percent of readers said cheaters shouldn’t get a second chance. Berghouse complains he’s “getting a lot of hate calls” about the lawsuit at his office.

One of my daughter’s high school classmates got away with plagiarizing homework in an honors class, but was rejected by every college that required a teacher’s recommendation letter.  He transferred to an elite college — and was expelled for cheating.