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Ask the Teacher

Cheating, second semester apathy, school stress

March 2014

My son recently cheated on a test. I had no idea he was under so much stress that he felt like he had to cheat to do well. What can I do to help him understand that he does not need to cheat?

When a child cheats, whether the child is six or sixteen, first we need to make it very clear that there is no acceptable reason for cheating. It is wrong. If this is the first time your child has cheated, a discussion may be the appropriate consequence at home. Explain how significant the consequences for cheating become as he gets older: receiving a zero on an assignment in middle school, being dropped from the course in high school, being expelled from school in college, being fired from a job in adult life. There are significant consequences for this behavior.

Then, if the teacher is unaware, require that your son take responsibility for his mistake by telling his teacher. If the teacher is already aware, support the teacher's consequence. Require your child to write a note of apology as a way to earn restitution. Whether or not he is feeling genuine remorse, he will be learning the appropriate steps to be taken when he makes a serious mistake.

Understanding why your child cheated is important, but saving that discussion until a few days later will prevent your child from receiving a mixed message. You do not want to risk him misinterpreting that there may be an acceptable reason to cheat. However, understanding whether the motivation was peer pressure, internal personal pressure or simply poor preparation will give you the opportunity to teach him some strategies to avoid being in the same situation again.

By this time each year my daughter stops doing homework. She claims that she is bored and just shuts down. Her grades drop, and she doesn't seem to care. How can I make her do her work?

We have all learned the value of praising kids' positive actions to reinforce a behavior. When praise is not enough to encourage responsibility, other consequences are needed. Children have learned the cause-effect relationship between choices and consequences long before school age. By school age, they should expect a negative consequence when they neglect responsibilities.

This is when parenting gets tough. Make a list of your daughters' privileges. Include all non-mandatory activities and technology devices. Instead of "grounding" her to stay home for a defined time, select specific privileges and eliminate them indefinitely, requiring her to exhibit responsibility to earn them back. If this is not leading to the desired result, add to the restricted list. No one delights in making a child uncomfortable, but sometimes it is necessary.

Brace yourself for a personal, negative reaction from your daughter. Do your best to remove yourself emotionally. Ignore the cold shoulder. Seize opportunities to show that while you are not going to condone unacceptable behaviors, you love her.

My kids are so stressed about school. I just don't understand it. School should be fun! Are there ways to bring the fun back?

To keep stress manageable, start with the basics. Make sure your children are getting sufficient rest and are eating balanced meals. When those needs are met, children are better equipped to deal with the stress they face.

Although you cannot control what happens in school, you can control other things related to school. Have supplies organized so that homework can happen efficiently and time isn't wasted gathering what is needed. Stick to a routine to eliminate any additional stress that comes from lost or forgotten homework or materials and to make getting ready for school and completing tasks go as smoothly as possible.

Find ways to make light of homework time. You and your child might take pictures during homework and create funny captions for them to insert some humor. Put a star on a chart for each time one of you says an agreed upon word like "because." You can call a homework "time out" for a free throw shooting contest on the driveway or a coloring activity at the table. Set a mid-week break time that is homework and activity free – just to play.

Evaluate your child's weekly schedule. Is it too jam-packed to allow for needed rest? Are there daily opportunities for ample down time? Help your child see that while he or she can certainly do anything and everything that he or she is interested in, it is not in anyone's best interest to try to do them all at one time.

Ask the Teacher is written by Deb Krupowicz, a mother of four and current teacher. Deb holds a Master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction and has over twenty years of experience teaching preschool, elementary and middle school students. Please send your questions to her at asktheteacher@indyschild.com

Tags: Ask the Teacher, Education, In This Issue

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