What to do When Your Child is Caught Cheating in School? (Elementary, Middle, High-School)

cheating in exam

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Cheating. As parents, it’s not something we want to think about.

Sadly, it happens. In fact, if you are reading this right now, it has probably happened to you.

The best thing you can do now is take a deep breath and some advice from someone who has been there.

What to Do When Your Child is Caught Cheating

Get all of the facts from all parties involved. Work with the school to reach a mutual decision about how to go forward. Attempt to find out why your child cheated and then address that issue. Never excuse cheating. This is an instance that requires punishment (grounding, revoked privileges, etc.).

The Story of a Cheater

I cheated. It’s not something I’m proud of, but it is part of my history, and I own it. When I was in high school, my Chemistry teacher left the answer key to an upcoming multiple-choice exam on his desk within plain view.

Seeing my opportunity to become beloved by all of my fellow students, I grabbed the test, quickly made a copy, and returned it unnoticed.

I then shared my prize with the sophomore captain of my high school football team, who proceeded to make enough copies for everyone.

I was a hero until I wasn’t.

As you might suspect, the unhappy ending to this story is that none of us were as sneaky as we thought we were. The teacher caught wind of the scheme and changed the test.

Those who weren’t reading through the answers, who were only filling out the answer bubbles, failed. This was almost everyone in all classes.

In fact, I was one of the only students who didn’t fail, simply because I had given my own answer sheet to the cutest boy at my lab table (I’m still so sorry, Tom) as I knew I didn’t need to cheat in order to get an A.

The following day, the Chemistry teacher revealed to our class that he knew we had cheated.

He excused those of us who had not failed the test while telling all of the others that they would face repercussions in the form of suspension.

My conscience got the better of me and I came clean. I took full responsibility for the “prank” and faced the consequences on my own.

The purpose of this story is to let you know that there are many reasons a child might cheat. Some cheat because, like me, they are looking for attention.

Others cheat because they are short on time, concerned about their grades, forgot to do their homework or were pressured into it.

Cheating is always wrong. However, understanding the reason for the cheating is the best way to prevent it from happening again.

Cheating in Elementary School

kid working in office

It can be argued that cheating in elementary school is the best time for it to happen.

This is because young children can learn the hard lesson of not cheating before they have to face extreme consequences.

A child who cheats in elementary school may just be testing the waters. They are still learning how rules work.

Elementary School Assignments and Essays

Your child was caught cheating on an elementary school assignment. They may have copied someone else’s homework or allowed their own homework to be copied. This is a minor infraction but one that needs to be swiftly managed.

Explain to your child why cheating is wrong. Cheating is the same as lying. By cheating, you are trying to convince someone that you are doing work that you aren’t.

You don’t learn from the lesson and you teach people that you cannot be trusted.

If your child allowed others to cheat off of them, you should explain that this type of behavior is similar to theft. Your child is stealing the other child’s ability to learn.

Punishment for cheating on elementary school essays and assignments can be mild. The school will likely enact a behavior referral, which will cause them to spend some time with the school principal and possibly go on probation.

Repeat offenders will see in-school suspension, detention, or extra work assignments.

At home, you should treat cheating on assignments or essays as you would any other form of lying or stealing.

You should insist that your child apologizes to any teachers and students affected by cheating. They should also lose privileges for a period of time that feels appropriate.

You may also insist that they redo the assignment, even if they are unable to turn it in to the teacher.

Elementary School Tests

Cheating on tests is much more serious than cheating on assignments and essays.

A child that is caught cheating on a test may feel as though they are unprepared, which can cause them to panic and make bad decisions.

Even if this is a temporary error in judgment, swift action should be taken to ensure it is not a repeat occurrence.

A child who cheats on a test will probably suffer from a grade of zero on that exam. Explain to your child that this is the consequence they face for trying to take the easy way out.

Consider hiring a tutor or sending your child to summer school in order to improve their confidence in test taking.

Punishment for cheating on tests should be similar to that for cheating on assignments.

Privileges should be revoked and children should be tasked with taking the time to understand why cheating is wrong.

Cheating in Middle School

teen on school

Middle school is a time for children to learn how to learn.

This is the time that is most common for children to cheat as they are testing boundaries and also figuring out who they are.

Cheating in middle school is more serious than elementary school cheating but less than cheating in high school.

It should still be taken seriously when and if it occurs.

Middle School Assignments and Essays

What kind of cheating did your child do? Did they copy a paper from someone else? Did they ask a friend to do their homework for them? Did they plagiarize their work from an online source?

All of these examples are serious and must be treated as such.

Your child’s school will likely dole out punishments that include failure on the assignment, detention, or even suspension.

As a parent, you need to accept the school’s decision for punishment. You should not argue that they should give your child another chance.

You and your child must understand that cheating requires heavy consequences.

Facing this at the middle school level will help to ensure that your child won’t attempt to cheat in high school or college.

Your own punishment for your child needs to be done carefully. If you over-react, your child may not stop cheating.

They might become so good at it that they don’t get caught. If you under-react, they won’t see a reason to not cheat anymore.

Your goal needs to be to find out why your child cheated in the first place. Address that problem rather than the cheating itself.

A child who didn’t have time to finish the homework may need to have fewer responsibilities or spend less time in leisure activities.

A child who didn’t understand the homework might need tutoring.

A child who was trying to see what they can get away with needs to know that they have crossed a line.

Middle School Tests

Cheating on a test in middle school usually means that your child is ill-prepared or worried about their grades.

Unfortunately, a child that is caught cheating will almost always receive a failing grade on that particular test. Middle school is the best possible time to learn this lesson.

These grades don’t affect high school transcripts, therefore, receiving a zero is not the end of the world. Likewise, you and your child now know their limits.

Being unprepared for a test might help them to learn how much studying they require and/or what level of classes they should be taking.

If this sounds like I believe cheating on a middle school test is a positive thing, I do not.

What being caught cheating on a middle school test shows is that your student needs help.

Use this as an opportunity to provide the help they need.

They should have plenty of time to work on classes considering they will probably be grounded for a while.

Cheating in High School

mother comforting teen

All forms of cheating are serious. Few are more serious than cheating in high school.

High school students are preparing for the future.

One wrong move can be the difference between earning a scholarship and not going to college at all. Cheating is an almost certain way to annihilate high school transcripts.

High School Assignments and Essays

A great deal of cheating in high school is done via plagiarism.

High school students may attempt to make subtle changes to papers found online only to find their schemes thwarted by tools like Plagiarism Detector.

Even one copied sentence will cause a high school student to fall victim to their own evil plans.

Another tried-and-true cheating tactic among teens is hiring someone to write a paper for them. They will often turn to their fellow students first, but if that fails, they will seek professionals.

There are online services that are built around providing papers for students. There are also freelance writers who may be willing to earn some money by churning out a quick three-page thesis about capitalism vs. communism.

As a freelance writer myself, I have lost track of the number of times I’ve been sought out by a student who was willing to spend big bucks for a paper I could write in my sleep.

While I’m not willing to do something so unscrupulous, there are plenty of people who have no problem writing a paper for pay.

Most teachers will quickly notice that the new, pristine paper has an entirely different tone than the student normally shares.

Within the last year, a new cheating tool has appeared on the scene. AI products like Chat GPT are free and easy tools that can write about a variety of topics.

The untrained eye might even think they write as well as a human. However, tools like Chat GPT do not create quality material.

They include many factual errors and are often riddled with mistakes and redundant language. It is very easy to spot a paper that was written by AI.

There are tools that check for AI just as easily as plagiarism.

Your high school student will probably face a failing grade if they are caught cheating on homework. They may fail the assignment or, if it is a particularly important assignment, the entire class.

They might also face suspension.

There is little more you can do at this juncture other than attempt to help your student figure out why they decided to cheat and what they could have done better.

The failing grade might be punishment enough.

High School Tests

This is the big one. Cheating on a high school test is serious enough that it can cause a student to fail the entire course.

They may have to repeat the class in summer school. If it is a course that is needed for graduation, they may even find themselves repeating a year.

Students need to know these extreme consequences are not just possible but warranted.

If your child is caught cheating on a test in high school, you need to make them aware that this is behavior that cannot continue.

The education they receive at this point directly affects how well they will do in college. A student who is caught cheating in college can be expelled.

The best thing you can do for your child is try to understand them. Let them know you are on their side.

Also, let them know that cheating cannot be tolerated.

Severe consequences like restricting their car, phone, internet access and after school activities are all acceptable.

Key Takeaways

Cheating is serious but it can also be a learning opportunity.

Find out why your child is cheating, explain the consequences to them and seek solutions to the underlying problem.

Do you have any stories about cheating in school? Share them with us in the comments!

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