7+ Years

Parents (USA) - - Contents - By TAMEKIA REECE

Have a con­ver­sa­tion about cheat­ing.

Bring it up.

Kids are more likely to cheat by third grade, when their work­load gets heav­ier and stan­dard­ized test­ing of­ten be­gins. There’s no rea­son not to ad­dress the is­sue head-on. Watch a movie like Space Jam or Wreck-it Ralph and ask your child what she thinks about the cheat­ing char­ac­ters and whether she knows any­one who has cheated. From there, ex­plain that cheat­ing is wrong be­cause it’s un­fair to oth­ers, and that peo­ple who do it aren’t earn­ing things hon­estly.

Many kids aren’t ac­tu­ally clear about what’s con­sid­ered cheat­ing, so talk to your child about com­mon ex­am­ples, such as look­ing at a class­mate’s pa­per, writ­ing “re­minders” on her hand be­fore a test, or giv­ing her­self a head start dur­ing a race. Then chal­lenge her to see if she can de­ter­mine whether cer­tain sce­nar­ios, like copy­ing a book re­port from a web­site or stand­ing on her tip­toes in or­der to meet the height re­quire­ments at a theme park, are cheat­ing or not. Let her know the con­se­quences of be­ing caught cheat­ing, too, such as get­ting a bad grade or los­ing priv­i­leges at home.

Man­age ex­pec­ta­tions.

Since home­work stress can make it tempt­ing for your child to cheat, praise his ef­forts (“Your hand­writ­ing looks re­ally neat” or “You did lots of good re­search on this topic”) rather than fo­cus­ing ex­clu­sively on re­sults. As­sure him that learn­ing and do­ing his best are more im­por­tant than top scores. Also ex­plain that get­ting a bad grade after gen­uine ef­fort is bet­ter than get­ting a good grade when he’s taken a short­cut. Let­ting him know that you don’t re­quire per­fec­tion will de­crease anx­i­ety and make it eas­ier for him to do the right thing.

Plan for peer pres­sure.

Be­cause friend­ships and feel­ing ac­cepted are im­por­tant to kids at this age, it can be hard for them to refuse a class­mate who asks them for an­swers to math prob­lems or to copy home­work. Some­times kids don’t know what to say, so they just go along with it. You can pre­pare your child by prac­tic­ing lan­guage she can use with would-be cheaters. For ex­am­ple, she could say, “I stud­ied too hard to risk get­ting an F for cheat­ing” or “My par­ents would ground me for months if we got caught!” Also teach her to gen­tly shift her body to block her work from rub­ber­neck­ers, and let her know that it’s okay to tell the teacher after class if some­one has copied her an­swers.

Set a good ex­am­ple.

If your kid over­hears you tak­ing credit for some­thing you didn’t do or telling his brother to pre­tend he’s younger so you can pay a lower ticket price, he’ll be more likely to dis­miss your “don’t cheat” mes­sages and im­i­tate your be­hav­ior. To help him to avoid cut­ting cor­ners or be­ing dis­hon­est, prac­tice what you preach. And if your child cheats de­spite your warn­ings, fol­low through on any con­se­quences you’ve dis­cussed with him. Sources: Don Mac­man­nis, PH.D., a psy­chol­o­gist and coau­thor of How’s Your Fam­ily Re­ally Do­ing?; Paula Mirk, for­mer di­rec­tor of ed­u­ca­tion at the In­sti­tute for Global Ethics.

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