“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“I don’t feel good. I don’t want to play after school today,” she sniffled.
“What happened?” I pried.
“I cheated on my spelling pre-test! And, I didn’t get a good behavior stamp!” she sobbed.
“Why?” I tried to hide my shock. “Why did you cheat?!”
“I didn’t cheat,” she says, covering her face.
“You just told me you cheated.”
“Well, I want to go home!” she sobs.
I finally did get the story out of her. She’s in third grade. At the beginning of every week, they take a pre-test of the week’s spelling words. It kind of assesses what words they know and don’t know, giving them a better idea of what words they need to work on. The pre-test consists of a piece of paper folded down the middle. One side has the words, the other side is where they write the words as the teacher reads them. She was flipping between the two pages. When I asked her why, she said it didn’t really matter because she got them wrong anyway.
The fear of failure motivated my nine-year old to cheat. Her teachers say they think it was that and not dishonesty that led her to look at the words during the test. Having taught high school for a year, I knew how serious an offense cheating is. She went straight to her bedroom when we got home from school. I told her to write a letter to her teacher and one to her principal explaining how she knew cheating was wrong and against the rules and promising never to do it again.
I’m proud that she told me right away what she had done. I’m worried she cheated in the first place. I’m frustrated that she lied about it when I asked her follow-up questions. The lying makes it so much worse. That really gets my goat. My two older kids have been doing that a lot lately. It can be something as simple as “Did you brush your teeth?” and they say yes, even though I know they’re lying. Why lie???
How do you handle lying and cheating in your house? We’ve punished her enough for the cheating. But, the lying is an ongoing problem with both of my kids. And the baby is already saying “No,” so it’s not too long before he starts fibbing too… What is an appropriate punishment for lying?