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My Children, The Cheaters

Posted by Jen on September 24, 2008 at 1:00 AM in Jen
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There will be no photograph accompanying this post because I don't want to tip the principal off to where the morally bankrupt are at the moment. No extra clues on my watch. I have my hands full with in-house detention and other various reform programs. My children--cheaters? How did this happen? Where did I go wrong?

It all started last week when a certain older girl child declared that yes, she knew my artist mom friend's son so-and-so because he had let her copy off his paper so she would be all caught up from what she missed earlier in the day. This followed by a cheerful confession from child number two who said he was able to finish his homework quickly because so-and-so the next door neighbor supplied all his (now correct) math answers. No amount of lecturing or friendly chatting up the virtues of doing your own work could convince either child otherwise.

It was faster.
It isn't a big deal.
I don't think my teacher would mind, Mom. Seriously.

This is the part where I deeply regret not taking them to Sunday School, where I imagine their future behind bars, where I decide that today, yes, today, we will have a conference with the teacher to find out what she really thinks about you copying someone else's work.

I grew up in a sleepy town where we attended private schools with serious religious training and even more hammering away at our (assumed) questionable ethics. Copying was considered cheating. Getting caught would send you to the principal's office, not to mention the shaming experience of having to call your parents. I was terrified of stray eyes--mine or someone else's--and religiously avoided any appearance of cheating. Is that so wrong?

I tell my kids these stories and all I see is goody-two shoes run across their not-so-innocent eyes. Am I old-fashioned? Is copying your neighbor's work the new norm? Inside I wonder if my primary vices--ignoring the speed limit and being blind to no parking signs--are the real culprits. Are my kids simply mirroring my own bad behavior in another form?

Tell me Supersisters. I need your full confession. Did you cheat in school and how would you react if you found out your lovely ten and seven year old were cheerfully copying other people's answers so that they could get out to recess five minutes quicker? How personally do you take it when you find out your kids are breaking the rules?

I'll be waiting here, ready to take notes with my number two pencil in hand.


El writes...

Confessions first - I cheated (only once that I remember, but the "I remember" part is key here)- I looked at someone's paper in an etomology class in 7th grade. All those Latin word roots, prefixes, suffixes, etc. Too much to memorize and what was the point? My school also had a strict "honor code." I was terrified of getting caught. Thankfully, I didn't (but I hope Mr. Green isn't reading this).
Now to the present - when I was looking through my 8 year old son's homework agenda the other day I saw all these nice, happy stamps from the teacher where I had signed showing that I had read the agenda items for the day. Then I saw on a Friday and Monday where she'd written in read "Please sign every day." Okay. Will do! I turned the page back and looked at Friday again and saw a signature there and thought - wait! I did sign.....I looked more closely and realized that the signature there was not mine but a pretty decent forgery of my signature. UH OH! Good news is that my 8 year old "signed" it (good naturedly) AFTER the teacher had seen that it was missing so she never saw the forgery. I'm not sure she would have even noticed because it was pretty good (that might worry me more than the fact that he did it in the first place - I did NOT tell him that it was good). Needless to say, my son and I had a conversation that I never anticipated needing to have. I think he got it, but how can I know for sure? Only time will tell......(p.s. just for now, I'm hiding the checkbook).

Naomi writes...

Oh boy ...

I think that we as parents should NEVER choose to NOT teach a lesson based on what the 'other kids will say' ... I'd rather have the "goody two shoes" kids then the kids who think it's ok to not follow the rules.

I was homeschooled, so my opportunities for cheating were rare :)

However, we have had this issue come up with our oldest (8th grade) in several years past. We're also currently having the issue with our kindergartner of why some kids are allowed to break the rules when HE isn't.

It's hard. There isn't one answer that works (and what works with one kiddo won't work with the other).

But I do think that you decide what the un-bendables are. And you communicate that to your children (so that there is firm black and white ... makes discipline after the offense SO much simpler).

(So do you want to know what we've done? With our 8th grader, we have initiated and followed up with the teachers to see that his grade (on the work where he copied answers) reflected as if he'd simply chosen to not answer ANY of the questions and left them all blank. It was the last time he copied answers!!

Dianne writes...

I held off cheating until college. I mean, if you're gonna break the rules, might as well go big, right? I cheated with homework solutions from a student who had the class in a previous semester. The professor caught me because he put mistakes in the solutions so he'd be able to catch cheaters. Smart guy. Thankfully he didn't "press charges" because academic dishonesty in college is serious business. Maybe he knew that I'd never faced disciplinary action in my life and that having him call me on my rule-breaking and making me tell him to his face that I cheated was enough to make me NEVER do that again!

What if my son said he cheated? Frankly, I'd be very surprised because he is a rule-follower. I would assume he didn't know that was wrong! We'd certainly have a discussion about it but I don't think I'd go crazy at this age (he's 6.)

Monica writes...


I'm a mom and a teacher and was also terrified of stray eyes. Ha!!

I don't know, maybe I'm a slacker, but doesn't every kids cheat at one time or another? And is it even cheating when something is just really, really hard, and you just sneak a look at your neighbour? Aren't you just trying to get through? I liken it to slipping into your shoes without untieing/tieing them first. You know you should do it the 'right' way, but sometimes you just can't be bothered .. you gotta get out for recess after all. When I'm in a class (now as a sub), younger kids don't see cheating as a big, bad thing. And neither do I. A gentle reminder to do your own work usually does the trick. I'm probably a total slacker. Now, a few years back when I was teaching grade 2 and one of the girls had her spelling words neatly written out on a cheat sheet she'd hidden in her desk and was taking peeks at through out the spelling test. Mmmmmm ... that was a little more serious and mom did get a call home that day.

Love your SS comment! Ha!!

carol writes...

Lying, cheating, stealing---it's all very black and white for me and wrong is wrong. On the other hand, if it's not a test and it's help with the homework, not just copying, and there is shared learning involved, then that's a good thing.

dida writes...

Upon doing some research for a series of articles/essays I'm working on, I stumbled upon this site. I like the light-heartedness of your piece and request for feedback on the topic, but unfortunately cheating has reached epidemic proportions in our schools, and it's not too funny a subject anymore.

80% of Advanced Placement students cheat their way into their ‘advanced student’ status... The pressure to compete, to be an 'all-around' achiever in high school to get into a good college, and the need to tell your parents and teachers what they want to hear, has led to an increasing lack of conscience and character in our youth. Are our future leaders bound for a life of half-truths and cut-corners to achieve success? Do parents really want to know the truth about their kids? Did your parents know the truth about you as a teen? I hope to reveal in my next release what parents’ in Silicon Valley are saying.

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