Friday, April 8, 2011

A Simple Solution To the Cheating Problem

I recently found another article by "parenting expert" Dr. Michele Borba called Raising Honest Kids Despite Cheating Epidemic. In it, she cites nine reasons why kids cheat, a few ways to tell if they are cheating without directly asking them, and six ways you can stop it.

Doesn't that sound complicated? What if I told you there is one simple way we can stop all kids from cheating? It's true. Here it is:

Stop grading the kids! It's amazing. No tests + No homework + No grades = no cheating. No reason to cheat.

But since that is not going to happen anytime soon, we have "expert" advice from people like Borba, on how to stop your kid from cheating. Here are a few of her tips for what to do if you suspect your child of cheating and my responses to them: 
Try practicing this move in the mirror. (source)
Announce that you will be monitoring your child’s “honesty quotient” much closer.
So you are to give your kid another grade to worry about? You will be testing him and grading him on his "honesty" from now on. This is compounding the problem. Telling your child that you are suspicious and you will be watching him even more closely might just lead to stealthier cheating. Like bacteria that become resistant to antibiotics. A kid who wants/needs to cheat to get by will find a way, despite your watchful eyes.
Let your child know honesty matters more to you than the grade. Push “effort” over “outcome.” Bless the parent who says, “It’s your integrity that I care about, Honey!”
Kids are not stupid. They will know that when you say this, what you really mean is that you want them to get good grades AND be honest. They know grades are important. If grades weren't important, they wouldn't be given so often. And since you probably do care about grades, your child will know you are not being honest. Be careful, because this might bring down your "honesty quotient" in your child's eyes.
Give your kid credit for owning up to his mistakes and having the courage to admit a lie. Behaviors that are reinforced are more likely to be repeated, and repeated behaviors are more likely to become new habits. Praise your child’s honesty.
The problem is that your child's cheating is already being "reinforced" by the better grades he gets when he cheats. You are going to have trouble undoing that. If you are a parent who consistently uses praise to get results from your children, then up until this point, you have most likely been praising good grades. Your child might be cheating because he wants to please you, and this is the best way he has figured out how to do that. Now you are going to praise him for "being honest," even if that means he fails? That is confusing.
Create a solution so the cheating problem doesn’t escalate. If there is no time to do homework so he copies, then cut one of those darn activities. If he is lazy and doesn’t want to do the work, then eliminate those extra privileges such as television.
This is my least favorite tip of all. Take away something your kid enjoys (activity, television), so he can spend more time doing homework or studying? Tell your child that the things he enjoys are so unimportant that some of them need to be cut out of his life completely? Bad, bad idea.

Here is my tip for you parents who think your child might be cheating: Stand up for your child. Let your child know that his interests are important, even if they are not in academic subjects. Instead of "cutting one of those darn activities" try cutting down on the pressure of school. Let the school know that your child won't be spending hours every night doing homework and studying for tests. He has better things to do. Get together with other parents and demand less homework or no homework. Don't let the school take childhood away from your child.

After all, grades are not that important to you, right? Right?? So help your child to forget about the grades and spend some more time enjoying life.


  1. Nice post, but...

    "Now you are going to praise him for "being honest," even if that means he fails? That is confusing."

    I don't think you are giving kids enough credit here. I think if a parent had a SINCERE conversation with a child about how the work we put in is more important then the outcome it produces then children could understand. It's okay for parents to make mistakes too and we aren't stuck on a path just because we started on it.

  2. @Melissa, You are totally right. Parents are allowed to make mistakes and parents can change. I guess I was just annoyed by the author's "Praise your child's honesty." To me, that sounded like "just say honesty is more important." It seemed so insincere. Especially if a parent combines that tip with the others, praising honesty while still trying to get the child to perform in school, it could be confusing to a child.

    Of course, if saying you value honesty is accompanied by an actual shift in thinking, and admitting to the child that you have had such a shift, then it can be great! But not if it is just a trick. That is what I meant, but I agree I was not exactly clear.

  3. Your blog posts makes so much sense. I keep putting them on Facebook for other people to read. :)

  4. Fantastic post Vickie. Montessori schools follow this formula of "No tests + No homework + No grades = no cheating. No reason to cheat."

    Given that teamwork and collaboration are more important than ever in the 21st century economy and workplace, the individual performance system of traditional schooling makes less and less sense. Another reason I love Montessori because it encourages this dynamic.

    People think that if you are not giving tests, grades or homework, then how do you know the kids are learning? But there are many better forms of assessment. My kids are getting assessed all the time in their Montessori school, it is just done in a low key, observational holistic, non competitive way.

    And if you want to know if your kids "know something" here is an idea: ASK THEM.

    Thanks again for this great post.

  5. @cmbg, Thanks for the very nice compliment! I having been loving reading your old posts, can't wait to see new ones!

    @Daniel, Thank you. It's greatthat this kind of thing is working in the Montessori schools. Now if only public schools would start jumping on board!

  6. Love this post and look forward to sharing more widely with other educators and parents.

    I have three reactions to this.

    1) Cheating is not really possible.
    Aside from putting your name on someone else's work, cheating does not exist. If you can get the answer, work, information you need from someone else, why not do that? I certainly don't ask my staff to reinvent the wheel when we are working. Sure, give someone credit, but figuring out how to get an answer, information etc. is perhaps more important in the 21st century than working in solitary confinement.

    2) Self assessment is key.
    When I was teaching students, together we created rubrics and they assessed themselves, then discussed their work with at least two friends or family members (whose feedback they probably valued more) who assessed them. They turned into their final work to me. I never had a student who was dishonest or assessed themselves too easily. I enjoyed empowering students to assess themselves. It enabled them to think about what was important and then be able to take ownership for critically looking at their work. My job was only to make suggestions that might help them like what they did even more.

    3. Keep it real.
    If assessment can't be authentic, it shouldn't be assessed. If a person is doing something they care about they will know if it is good or not. If the work is real, there will be a real audience. The real audience will be assessing your work by giving feedback in the form of viewing your work, sharing they liked your work, and commenting on it. If there is no real audience interested in doing that, then you're wasting your time. As a point of clarification, it is okay if the person doing the work is the only interested audience member. It is not okay if the only interested audience member is the teacher.