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My son, 12, is a good student who always gets A's. He takes his schoolwork very seriously and does his homework on time.

Today I received a shocking call from his teacher that he was caught cheating. I'm shocked; this is so not him. I don't know how to deal with this situation.

Should I punish him? He loves to play Xbox games, so should I stop his games for a week? Please advise me on how to handle this situation.

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    Out of curiosity, have you gotten to hear both sides of the story here? Why does the teacher believe your son cheated? What does your son have to say for himself? If this seems very out of character, it could indicate that he is having difficulties / problems or that maybe the teacher just got it wrong. I wouldn't pass judgement or start freaking out until you have a better idea what happened. There is no faster way to destroy a child's trust in you than to rush to judgement and refuse to listen. – Becuzz Mar 8 '17 at 18:28
  • Comments are not for discussion. If you have something important to say, please have a go at an answer. Comments will be deleted. Thanks for understanding. – anongoodnurse Mar 13 '17 at 5:01

14 Answers 14

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First, I would (as Becuzz mentioned) sit down with him and hear his side of the story. It may be that he was cheating, and in this case, if he seems properly repentant and embarrassed, you might work out a punishment that fits the crime better than taking away his X-Box. Enlist the teacher's help with this. Maybe doing an extra paper, or some other task that would be enough work to let him know he's being punished. See if there's the option of retaking the test. It might be that the embarrassment of being singled out for a punitive test would be punishment enough.

However, don't just accept the teacher's statement without investigating things yourself. My husband once told me a story about how he got 100% on a test and received an F. The teacher said it was because he had cheated. His mother got involved and questioned the teacher, who finally admitted that my husband had accidentally been given a test for two grade levels above his own, and the teacher assumed he couldn't have gotten the score he got without getting the answers from an older friend. Nope. He was just very good at math. The teacher at first refused to let him retake the test, but once his parents got the school board involved he was allowed to retake it. In a room by himself. Aced it.

Another thing you might consider...straight A students often feel a great deal of pressure to continue to perform at that level. Once you have dealt with the current problem, be sure to let him know that while doing his best is important, the grades are only an indicator, not the goal. And not all subjects are the same...students who are good at math may not do as well at English, and vice versa. As a child goes up in levels, just being smart and working hard may not be enough any more. It needs to be okay to fail a little, as long as you are sure that he is putting his best effort into school.

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Other answers have covered getting his side, so I won't go further into that. But not much has been said yet (that I agree with anyway) about what to do if he has been cheating.

The school will punish him for cheating at school. Why would you punish him at home too? You do the crime, you do the time, but you don't do extra time as well. Make sure that he faces up to the punishment from school and doesn't avoid it somehow, but I see no need to give him additional punishment.

At home you want to discuss the issues with him, make sure he understands the consequences of his actions, and help him work a way through this to the other side.

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    Totally agree with no punishment at home. As hard as it is for parents to not punish for a bad action I agree that the school will handle that. As a parent it should be your job to understand why and a discussion is all that's needed. Good answer IMHO. – Bugs Mar 10 '17 at 8:29
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    Just knowing that the parents are disappointed can often be a punishment in of itself as well. – Tim B Mar 10 '17 at 17:05
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    Schools will not always do a good job of correcting kids when they do something bad, whether because it is too time intensive or they don't know how. Augmenting corrective actions at some can be very productive. I'm not suggesting just heaping on more punishment, but having a conversation about what happened and about how to better handle that situation in the future is something that the teacher probably can't do as well as a parent can – Kevin Wells Mar 10 '17 at 23:59
  • I don't understand why he wouldn't get punished at home too. Didn't he break the parents' rules as well as the school's rules? The only time I would apply this 'double jeopardy' is if the school punished my child for something which I don't care about, like wearing the wrong uniform. In this case I would accept the school's punishment (since parents and child have both accepted the school's authority to enforce its own rules), but leave it at that. – jwg Mar 13 '17 at 10:34
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Because @Becuzz's comment is so very good, I'm turning it into an answer.

Today I received a shocking call from his teacher that he was caught cheating. I'm shocked; this is so not him. ...Should I punish him?

You say, this is so not him. Maybe he didn't cheat then. As Becuzz said, the first thing to do is to get your son's side of the story. Teachers are not perfect; no one is. Though they may give the student the benefit of the doubt, some may not in an iffy situation. Once you've gotten your son's side of what happened, you can decide if the teacher or your son is most likely right. But if this is the first time such an event happened, I would tend to believe your son.

On the other hand, as @Wigwam already said, your son may have hit a wall in his schoolwork. You know your son better than anyone except perhaps his other parent. A student with straight A's may feel a lot of pressure to keep up those grades, even if it takes cheating to do so.

Another possibility was mentioned by @pojo-guy in comments. If your son is highly intelligent, this is not always a blessing when it comes to a work ethic in school. Highly intelligent kids tend to sail through grammar school without needing to study. Once they get to high school, where a different kind of learning needs to occur, they don't have the study skills to fall back on. They hit a wall, and because they may have found praise and self-esteem in good grades, they resort to cheating on a test.

You asked for advice on what to do assuming he cheated. If you suspect he did, then please have a long talk with him. Tell him character is more important than grades, and that you love him for his character - who he is - and not for how he does in school. Tell him effort, even if it doesn't meet with success, is more important in the long run than good grades. Make sure you praise effort, honesty and character, not outcome. Let him feel safe in telling you why he cheated.

If he tells you he did, there are four possible responses:

  • just punish him
  • just help him overcome a bad work habit
  • do both
  • do nothing, and hope he doesn't do it again.

If he admits that he has cheated in the past, he needs help in learning to study for himself. Help can come from you sitting with him while he does his homework (and you should always have a good idea of just what his homework is), or perhaps better, a tutor from an advanced grade to help him learn how to study.

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    There was a (rare) good episode of Hannah Montana where she caught her brother prepping for a test by writing answers all over his body. After she sprayed him down, and the answers washed away, he complained "How am I supposed to know that ... (insert list of odd facts here)?" And she pointed out that he obviously knew the facts because he was reciting them to her. The act of prparing to cheat actually taught him good study habits. – pojo-guy Mar 8 '17 at 23:30
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    @pojo-guy I believe that is a common reason why many teachers allow a standard sized notecard to be brought in with whatever information you can write on it. – David Starkey Mar 9 '17 at 15:35
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Did he cheat by helping a friend with the answers or cheat so he could pass the test himself?

If he were my son, and it is factual beyond doubt he cheated so he could pass the test, I would express my deep disappointment for his choice and ask, "How much time did you devote to studying for this test? How did I fail you as a parent? Did I not teach you to conduct yourself with honesty and uprightness before G-d and your fellowman? Explain to me what led up to the moment before you made the decision to cheat? What were your thoughts? How were you feeling at the time? How do you feel now after you have been caught and others may know you are willing and able to cheat? Would this behavior have continued had you not been caught? How can I help you because you know this is not how we as a family do things?

"Would you rather be operated on by a surgeon who studied hard and earned passing grades or operated on by a surgeon who cheated his way through medical school without being caught? Why?"

Always ask yourself in advance for any moral choice you must make, "Where will this choice lead?

Depending upon what led up to the moment he decided to cheat, I would punish accordingly to leave the impression this behavior is unacceptable. The first step in accountability would be going with him in person to apologize to the teacher saying it an meaning it that it won't happen again.

"(name of son) has something he would like to say to you." You being there shows support for him and also demonstrates how seriously you take being responsible for your child's behavior that affects others in a negative manner.

Whatever the problem/distraction was must be taken away until the next report card comes out. If it's the x-box, then bye-bye x-box for awhile and grounding so he doesn't go over to friends' homes to play x-box. Reprove with sharpness but then show forth an increase in love just as our loving G-d does.

And, hopefully, it will be sufficient enough of both that he deems it never worth it to be in this situation again!. "I don't want to be a cheater and I never want to disappoint my family and my G-d like this ever again."

He sounds like a very good and studious boy whom any parents would be most proud to have and that you're doing a fantastic job parenting. I pray everything will turn out alright and this is the last time he considers cheating on tests. G-d be with you and yours always.

  • If an authority figure had come to me as a child with that list of questions presented like that, I would have become defensive and angry. Perhaps you mean that those are a sampling of questions you could ask throughout a conversation about the situation, and if so then ok, but as presented that list is a pretty extreme grilling. If the kid is anything like I was at that age, he already feels guilty about cheating, so berating him isn't going to do him any good. Giving him understanding and assistance in fixing the underlying problem may be much more productive – Kevin Wells Mar 11 '17 at 0:06
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    Also, you seem to be assuming the religious beliefs of the OP, which doesn't seem founded in anything. They may hold religious conviction that cheating is a sin against their god, but they also may not – Kevin Wells Mar 11 '17 at 0:08
  • @KevinWells I don't think that Tovlevav has assumed anything. He has said what he himself would do, which includes mentioning religion. This allows the OP to understand a specific approach, which they might adopt fully or partially, adapt, or just disagree with. – jwg Mar 13 '17 at 10:38
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First of all: Your son is growing up. He is becoming a teenager. His disobedience is perhaps painful for you. It may be disadvantageous or even dangerous for him. But it is an absolutely necessary step in his development. A child which is 100% obedient would be a scary freak. The occasional misstep is normal. (This is to console you.)

Growing up, he will take more risks and perhaps get hurt in the process. He will do things you don't want to know about. Our educating our children amounts to letting them go, well equipped.

So how do we equip them? I am convinced that punishment in this context is of little use. By punishment I mean a formal punishment, like grounding or an X box ban. Instead it is important that he sees that his cheating (and this answer assumes he did cheat) was a bad choice. It was bad morally, because it is dishonest and because it would have got him an unfair advantage. It damaged his relationship with his teacher and with his parents. It would have damaged these relationships even if he hadn't been found out! Because it establishes a dishonest, unauthentic relationship to you. Can he be really happy coming home with good grades gained through cheating? Can he enjoy the celebratory ice cream treat and still look in your eyes?

Showing him your disdain for his cheating is likely to be punishment enough. I would hate my father to have a bad opinion of me. (If not, there is some deeper trouble which I assume no punishment will cure, either.)

It may also be helpful to discuss how cheating, contrary to first impression, is bad even pragmatically. It prevents him from obtaining valid feedback how he is actually doing in school. Even if he cheats his way through school, he will run into trouble in college, or later at the workplace.

Reality always catches up, eventually, even if you cheat yourself all the way into the White House.

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    That last sentence is oh, so telling. Sadly... – Tim Mar 12 '17 at 17:30
  • @Tim It is, I find, utterly applicable. It is the example which came to mind when I continued a progression of cheats to the logical conclusion. Sadly. (I know that many people find, inexplicably, that Trump is honest compared to most other politicians. Time will tell. I am a strong believer in eventual reality feedback.) – Peter - Reinstate Monica Mar 12 '17 at 19:23
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You are convinced that this is so not like him. As an ex-teacher, you'd be amazed how many parents can't believe what's right in front of their eyes.

Given the preponderance of advice along the lines of "the teacher could have made a mistake", I would the advice is severely biased and I would say teachers, although sometimes wrong, are far less likely to make a mistake than the reality that the pupil is cheating. I'd go with the probability, not possibility, that the teacher has caught your son cheating and work from there.

  • I think you need to start with giving the child a chance to explain and admit his guilt, rather than to presume the teacher cannot have made an error. Innocent until proven guilty is a concept strongly held to in the US, as opposed to some countries wherein the accused must prove their innocence to avoid punishment. In which kind of country would you rather live? – anongoodnurse Mar 9 '17 at 19:50
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    @anon: By all means, allow the child to explain. But don't assume that he is not guilty. Both sides have to be given equal weight. Transit is simply warning that most kids know how to hide things from their parents. – user19033 Mar 10 '17 at 1:42
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First thing first, try to find out what had happened.
Find out as much as you can from your son - he might tell you a different story, or it might contain things the teacher didn't told you.
Second, get his oppinion on what he thinks he did wrong.
IF you both agreed on what he did wrong, you might ask himself to propose a punishment (you might be surprised, as I was). You might even reduce that punishment as a sign of good faith (or soften it in other ways), as I did.
I think it's more important for your son to learn something good out of this, than to get punished

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First things first: No matter where the truth is and how bad things actually are, do not let this bruise your relationships.

Second things second: Cheating at school is not a cause, it's always a consequence. To properly solve this, you have to first find the cause of the cheating (given there was any cheating and it's not just a misunderstanding). To make myself clear and explain what I mean, I'll list some reasons for cheating I can think of:

  • Dared to cheat by mates, or made a bet about it.
  • To get good grades and show off.
  • To be better than XY.
  • Fear of failure.
  • Because cheating is cool/macho.
  • To protest against rules.
  • Because "the teacher is a fuc***g moron" or "I'll never need this or that".
  • Misunderstood the test rules.
  • ... (the options are moreorless endless)

Without knowing the reason, the source, the cause, you can't treat it, without this, no punishment can be efficient in preventing this from happening again.

Once you know the reason, you can take actions. Maybe they will include a punishment, and maybe it will be an X-box prohibition, or giving him some extra duty without the teacher involved, or cutting down allowance. But maybe you'll uncover deeper issues with his self-consciousness and self-esteem; then no punishment will be efficient, actually, punishment could cause even more troubles.

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Yes - absolutely take away the X-Box. He needs to know there are consequences for his actions, and when he pulls this stunt in college or at work, the repercussions can be severe.

However, it might also be a cry for help, too. He's a straight-A student, who might suddenly be finding his work difficult, and, he may not feel comfortable letting you or others know. He may perceive this as an embarrassment, or a weakness, or a let-down to you. Therefore, you ought to work with him to find out why he cheated. If it's because he spent too much time on the X-Box and didn't turn in work, that's one thing. If it's because he's got puppy love for his teacher, that's another. But if he truly doesn't understand the material and is afraid of failing, that needs to be addressed quickly - and with compassion.

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    Taking away the X-Box is not a "consequence"; it is an arbitrary outlet of your anger about being told that he cheated. What if he did not actually cheat? What if he did something wrong and did not know that it was cheating (he is 12...). What if he was mobbed at the time and emotions went high? What if hormones killed his logical thinking. Etc. etc. A real "consequence" would be to sit down with him and the teacher, for example. If he really cheated, this will be very unpleasant for him. – AnoE Mar 9 '17 at 16:55
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    The OP has stipulated that he cheated, so there's no reason to think he might not have. To sit with him is a consequence, but does not underscore the gravity of his behavior. For some kids, weighing the "talk" vs the gains, the talk is an easy ride. Until they get to college and face class dismissal, suspension for a semester, or expulsion. Or they do it on the job: they can be fired, have a security clearance taken away, be blacklisted, demoted, sued, or have criminal charges filed. Cheating is serious. There is no need to treat it with kid gloves. Taking the XBox away is suitable. – user26460 Mar 10 '17 at 3:17
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    The OP didn't stipulate that their son cheated, they said the teacher called and said their son cheated. Those are hugely different, and I speak from personal experience that a call home to report cheating is not the same as the son actually being guilty – Kevin Wells Mar 11 '17 at 0:12
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Should I punish him?

The first step is to figure out whether he's done something morally wrong or just technically wrong. For example, in high school there was this absolute genius in my class who could construct something like a primitive slide rule from scratch (I have no idea how it worked) and he used it to do multiplications - and the teacher accused him of cheating, claiming that a slide rule is a calculator. Well maybe that's technically right but it's not like he brought in a slide rule from outside, he was actually able to build this thing in real time. (His parents were outraged and called the principal etc and he beat the "rap").

So that first step as a parent is to really get all the facts of the situation and make sure there was some moral wrong before punishing anyone.

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    lol ... I remember in the early days of programmable calculators programming by TI-57 to do matrix math. My math teacher watched me do it and decided I could use a programmable calculator since I obviously "got" the concept, sufficently well to program a 9 term matrix in a calculator with 57 steps and only 8 variables (memory cells). – pojo-guy Mar 8 '17 at 23:33
  • How did he use it without log tables? – Joshua Mar 9 '17 at 15:09
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From my own experience both as a student and as a teacher, the most likely reasons for good students to cheat are either

  • He took the test lightly and didn't prepare out of laziness because he thought he would get away with using a cheat sheet.
  • He tried to help a colleague and got caught in the process.

Often, good students are bad at cheating and get caught more easily than well-practiced cheaters.

As many pointed out, hear his side of the story first.

He should already have learned his lesson from this: The trouble he got himself in by getting caught was not worth the effort he saved by cheating (assuming he didn't cheat to help a friend). The fact that the school did phone you makes it almost certain that he already faces punishment at school.

So I don't think additional punishment at home is necessary. Do point out to him though that cheating in an academic environment is not considered a trivial offense and can lead to career ruining consequences later on (not at the age of 12 of course).

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Don't punish him please. It is your anxiety and you are going through unexpected situation. I suggest ( it is easy to suggest you know ;) ) you punish yourself. Have a smile on your face, talk to him that you failed to grow him up so say you are not going to eat or drink for a day. May not work but no chance to backfire. Waiting eagerly for results :)

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    Self punishment is not an appropriate response to a child's misdeeds. It isn't a healthy response for the parent or the child. The parent learns to blame themselves for the child's problems, and the child either learns that their shortcomings are their parent's fault, or becomes emotionally distraught that their parent is suffering for their misdeed. – Kevin Wells Mar 11 '17 at 0:14
  • I see your point Kevin. Your comment provides balance to this discussion. That does not mean I agree to it though :) – Big J Mar 11 '17 at 17:54
  • I'd downvote this, but have insufficient rep. If we all blamed ourselves for someone else's misdemeanours, they would grow up thinking they were squeaky clean. The days of having whipping boys are long gone. You may need to google that. – Tim Mar 12 '17 at 17:40
  • Comment:- 1 (I have broken down this comment in few comments as it won't allow me to put long comment) I respect your opinion Tim & kevin. Here is interesting case study happened to me. At age of 10 I got failed in Maths and it was Friday. I had a plan. I thought I will talk my teachers on Monday tell them if they can recheck the paper as I was confident I can't fail. So decided to hide the result till Monday and show to Mom only after Monday. Very nervous, anxious as a kid and I remember I cried alone that night. I hid the results in library in corner. See Comment - 2 please – Big J Mar 14 '17 at 7:37
  • Comment:- 2 During the weekends, my mom decided to clean some part of house and guess what she picked library to be cleaned. She got the results. My grandpa picked me from school and told me that family knows I lied. I was like, Oh My God!. How will I face my mom. I was sure she is going to scold me. She will never talk to me and blah .. blah !!! But when I returned home she just did this. -> She was not happy, she had tears in eyes, she did not talk to me. After few mins things started to go normal. It came across to me as a kid that it was ok. I did not made a mistake. See Comment-3 please – Big J Mar 14 '17 at 7:38
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Your son cheated on a test? That's a problem. But its not the biggest thing you have to contend with. You now have to ask yourself can I trust my child? A big part of that will be figuring out if your son actually did cheat. He probably did, but I've been falsely accused of cheating before.

Assuming he did actually cheat, you now face a lost of trust. Repairing that breakdown in your relationship is the primary goal. The problem is that your son managed to wander that far off base without you having any clue that it was happening. Step one is fixing the obvious communication problem. Blame? Irrelevant. Maybe its your fault, maybe his, doesn't matter now: damage done. Get to talking.

Make it clear that you trusted him, that your trust was abused, and that he's going to have to make some efforts to re-establish that trust. I'd also make it clear that you will be taking a more... direct hand in what he's doing until such time as reparations happen. What consequences to lay out for the actual infraction is pretty well covered in the upvoted answers.

As (obliquely) mentioned in another answer, this (if true) is symptomatic of a deeper issue.

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This answer assumes your son in fact did cheat.

Don't go easy on him, and don't let the school go easy on him too just because he's a "good student". He needs to learn his lesson both at home and at school. If he is to receive a 0 on the work, and other punishment, let the school dish it out to teach him a lesson. Don't try to get in the middle of what they deem necessary, if anything tell them not to go easy on them! And absolutely, you should take away the X-Box for awhile. I tend to think more a month than a week, but that's your call.

Punish hard, punish quick, and make sure he knows he better never do this again.

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    Is taking away video games an effective way to teach someone the moral and social problems associated with cheating? I think it only teaches them to not get caught (since the extrinsic punishments only happen when they get caught). Teaching the child about the intrinsic problems with cheating is much more likely to result in them not cheating in the future – Kevin Wells Mar 11 '17 at 0:17

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