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It is never too early to begin teaching your children good morals and ethics. Parenting.com published an insightful article about kids and cheating in school. The feature included insight from Thomas Lickona, Ph.D., author of Raising Good Children and Character Matters – How to Help Our Children Develop Good Judgment, Integrity, and Other Essential Virtues. Lickona said, “You want to get good behavioral habits established while moral reasoning is developing and deepening. There’s research to suggest that even young children are more sophisticated and morally observant than we might give them credit for.”

As parents carry out their daily regiment, it is imperative that they assess their own actions – whether they are intentional or not because kids soak it all up. Cheating is closely associated with lying and stealing; therefore, parents must make sure they are tying up the loose ends and making that correlation for their children. Even though it may seem like it’s common sense, it’s really not for children. They need those lines defined.

Parents are subconsciously pressuring their children to cheat. One way is the pressure that parents put on their children. Obviously, this is not intentional, but kids are feeling the heat. Instead of asking our children what they learned, oftentimes we ask them, “How did they do?” As innocent as that sounds, it can be taken as a form of interrogation or a form of measurement. Another way to communicate a conversation starter with your child would be to pose the question, “What did you learn?” This provides the child with an opportunity to dive into a lesson they found interesting and there is no indirect interrogation.

Even though we’re not promoting cheating, when parents pressure their children to feel like they need to be more or be better, there is an underlying amount of expectational guilt that a child feels – which brings forth the feeling of needing to cheat.

Another way society encourages our children to cheat is through the rules we enforce. If a child feels like they have no say, then that child may be more compelled to go against the law. Some parents may parent by the notion that their rules are final and there is never any room for negotiation. However, how would their parents feel if they didn’t have an opportunity to be themselves within reasonable terms? Clearly, a parent should create good boundaries and household rules. But parents should consider giving their children a say and incorporating their voice into the conversations. Not only will they feel empowered, but they’ll have an opportunity to grow their maturity.

For example, if your child wants additional TV time, you can involve them in the conversation without pointing fingers. Try this approach. Your child can have more TV time if they complete their chores without being told, finish their homework with no problems, and if they demonstrate a positive attitude. The additional TV time can be as little as 15 minutes or as much as 30 minutes. If a child feels like they are being heard, valued and had an opportunity to participate in the regulation then they are more likely to not be deceitful. However, if your child does not do all the things you’ve listed out, then you can calmly explain that they didn’t hold up their end of the bargain – and you can revisit the rule for adjustment later. Ultimately, children want to be involved and seen.

Lastly, another big was parents encourage cheating is their own actions. As a parent, be honest and ask yourself, are you completing your child’s project for them, doing your child’s homework instead of explaining it, not writing accurate information on their reading logs, or answering questions for them? If a parent is doing any of these things, they are essentially crippling their child. Children learn from examples and if a parent is setting the stage by not demonstrating what accountable behavior looks like, then they are encouraging their child to cheat.

Schoolwork and homework are hard. There are new ways teachers are teaching our children and parents are struggling to identify what has changed. Nonetheless, it is all part of the parenting job. Instead of filling in the answers so a to-do item can be crossed off the list, parents must take the time invest in their child. Identifying and designating these learning opportunities will be a great way for parents to level with their children and teach them good values by experience. By implementing and taking advantage of these teaching opportunities, parents will enrich and empower their children with a good foundation.

The reality is parents are not aware that they are encouraging their children to cheat. In many cases, parents assume that their children know right from wrong and already are equipped with the common-sense essentials to navigate through life. However, that is incorrect. Parents must heighten their senses and be aware of the many ways they are subconsciously contributing to their child’s behavior and actions. The little things really matter and have more influence than they like to believe. Parents should involve their children with the development of household rules, be more aware of the pressure they are inadvertently placing on their children and assess their own actions and mannerisms. Each parent and family dynamic are different, but if every parent can put in the extra effort they’ll see a big return. In the end, they’ll most likely view parenting with a different lens and learn new ways they can be a better individual.