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Keep Kids from Cheating in School

Jon Whittle

Keep it honest

Research suggests that school honor codes—which discourage cheating and other poor behaviors—work best when students have a hand in creating and enforcing them. By the same token, Lickona says, letting your kids help write and maintain a family honor code could be a great way to curb cheating. (Sample language: “In our family, we don’t lie, cheat, or steal; we take responsibility for our actions; we do our best in everything.”) Another helpful tool is Lickona’s “Ethics-in-Action Quiz”, which gives kids questions to mull over when they’re deciding whether something they want to do is unethical. Among the questions: “Would I want someone to do this to me?” “Does this go against what my conscience tells me is right?” “Would I want this made public through Facebook, YouTube, texting, etc., and seen by my teachers, parents, employers, or future spouse?”

If your child admits to cheating or is caught doing so, let her know how disappointed you are—but also encourage her to tell you why she resorted to it so you can work together to find a better way. Does your child feel strapped for time because of after-school activities? Insist she drop one or two—at least for now. Is she having trouble understanding material in class? Perhaps you can explain it or find a teacher or tutor who can. Is she feeling pressured by other kids to let them copy her work? Explain that this would be like helping them steal something—and coach her in ways to respond. The bottom line when it comes to curbing cheating, Anderman says, is never to leave kids feeling helpless. “Make them feel you’re their partner.”

When Parents Cheat

Sure, it’s important to sit down with your kids over their homework and get them excited about learning. But teachers can always tell if you go over the line. Among the practices that drive them crazy:

  • Masterminding your kids’ projects
  • Completing their homework, instead of helping them understand it
  • Fudging their reading logs
  • Typing their homework for them (unless they have physical disabilities)
  • Dictating answers to them