Talking to Your Kids about Cheating


With the news this week that twenty major league baseball players are facing suspension for steroid use, it might be a good time to talk to your kids about cheating, especially in light of these statistics:

  • 34% of students claim their parents never talked to them about cheating. (2001 Josephson Institute of Ethics survey)

  • 51% of high school students have admitted cheating on a test in the past year, and 74% of those students have copied others’ work. (2012 Josephson Institute of Ethics survey)

Why do kids cheat?  They cheat because others do it and get away with it, because there is competition or pressure to get good grades, because they feel it is the only way to get through certain classes or programs, because they are lazy, or because they believe that the teacher is unfair or the material too difficult. And sometimes they cheat because they have gotten the impression from their parents that dishonesty is sometimes OK.

Have your children seen you advertise something you sold or return something you had purchased without being totally honest?  Have you taught them unsportsmanlike ways to get an advantage in a sport? The ethical short-cuts that kids see mom or dad making or encouraging them to make leave an imprint.

So, parents, the first order of business is to remember that your actions speak louder than words. What the apostle Paul said to the pastor Titus about being a role model to his flock also applies to parents being role models for their children: “In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned.” (Titus 2:7,8)

Secondly, remember to confess to them when you have been a bad example of integrity or honesty. By doing so you will not only be condemning sinful behavior and reinforcing godly behavior, you will help your children see what it means to be repentant.  This is one of the most important things you can teach them, because the truth is that we and our kids will never measure up to the holy life God demands.  But “the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sinIf we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:7-9)

Thirdly, discuss with them times when they will be tempted to cheat or cut ethical corners.  Also talk about the common excuses we all make for cheating, which will make it a lot easier for us to expose excuses in the future (ours and theirs) as just that- excuses.

Finally, encourage them to do what is pleasing to God for the sake of their Savior from sin, Jesus Christ.  He did not take any short cuts when it came to our salvation.  He obeyed every command of his Father every day perfectly for us, and he suffered every bit of the punishment we deserved for our sins on the cross, so that we would be forgiven.  It’s not the force of obligation, but the desire to thank him, that moves us to live a life of integrity that reflects positively on him.