Help! My kid cheated

Parents scaling wall

By: Tonya Mead, CFE, CHFI, PI, MBA, MA Educational Psychology

This week, an Arizona parent wrote an advice columnist asking for help. What should she do about a child who divulged to her that he cheated in school? Additionally, the parent wanted to know if she should acquiesce to her son’s wishes to keep the bad news from his dad (her husband).

A student’s cry for help?

After the mother probed the child, he explained that he was falling behind and needed extra supports but did not know how to ask for help. This reminds me of an article, whereby Stewart indicated that “parental pressure also motivates some students to cheat. If a student is not doing homework and receiving failure notices from the school, a parent may place greater pressure on a student to work harder which may frustrate some to cheat. Students bringing home high grade points may even be pressured to strive harder.”

Students may not want to cheat but just don’t know how to reach out and in whom to confide to obtain help.

The columnist did a pretty good job. To expand upon her advise, however let us explore the possibilities that child may have wanted to make the right choice, but failed to do so for a possible key reason: his parent.

Parent attitudes may serve as catalyst

Moeck found that students may resort to cheating in school to maintain a high grade point average (GPA) leading to parental approval, selection for school leadership roles and improved competitiveness.

Taylor theorized that students are more likely to cheat in school (glance for answers from a peer’s,  use one’s own notes during a closed book exam, plagiarize hiding notes in the bathroom, baseball cap, or under one’s sleeve, for instance) when parent’s apply undue pressure on their child to earn good grades.

The right positive reinforcement
Researchers from the University of California- San Diego determined that the manner by which parents give praise can reinforce self esteem (internal locus of control) or weaken it (require constant outside recognition and praise).
Statement to avoid:
1. “You are smart.” This statement may lead to performance pressure and eventually anxiety as they attempt to meet expectations.
Statement to use:
2. “You performance this task well this time.” This statement places the emphasis on the (i) task and (ii) performance, at a specific (iii) point in time.
Mixed Messages

And finally, parents are cautioned against sending mixed messages. In India, parents were photographed scaling a wall to send cheat sheets disguised as airplanes to their children while they were administered an exam. According to the Associated Press, “relatives of 10th-grade students climbed the wall of a school building and perched precariously from windows of classrooms as they handed cheat sheets to children writing the tests inside.”

Related articles

Resources (non- hyperlinked)

1. Moeck PG. Academic dishonesty: Cheating among community college students. Community College Journal of Research and Practice. 2002; 26:479-491.

2. Taylor L, Pogrebin M, Dodge M. Advanced placement-advanced pressures: academic dishonesty among elite high school students. Educational Studies 2002; 33:403-421.

Tonya J. Mead, CFE, CHFI, PI, MBA, MA, former Certified K-12 Administrator and School Psychologist is author of Fraud in Education: Beyond the Wrong Answer and president of Shared Knowledge, LLC

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