Caught My Daughter Cheating

Updated on December 22, 2017
K.B. asks from Houston, TX
17 answers

My daughter is in 5th grade. She is really trying to do well in school, so that she can get a phone at the end of the school year. she’s struggles in school because of her ADHD. Last night she had 3 tests to study for & I caught her writing answers on her hand. Right away I was so disappointed, but I went ahead and gave her a chance to tell me the truth, and I asked her what that was, and She told me that it was just a reminder, and that she was going to wash it off at school. I knew this was not the truth, and I had her talk to her dad about it and once again she lied to him and said the same thing. I just couldn’t let it go, so later I spoke with her again and I told her that she would not be in as much trouble if she would just tell me the truth, and that I knew the truth already. She began to cry, was really upset and said she was stressed out, and she admitted that she was going to cheat. So I told her that if she would tell me the truth the consequence wouldn’t be as bad. I did tell her that she would still be punished, but I wouldn’t be as disappointed in her. Now I don’t know what to do, because I’m mad at her, but she did tell me the truth like I wanted. What is a proper punishment, and how far should I take this? Part of me doesn’t want to be too harsh, because I said that I wouldn’t be as mad if she just told me the truth, and then she did. I don’t want to break her trust at such an early age. At the same time she does need to be punished . Help!

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answers from Wausau on

Yes, lying can be a big deal - but if you set a kid up and back them into a corner, they will often lie. You created this situation by handling things poorly. Don't ask open ended questions trying to trap her.

What you should have done is simply acknowledge the hand writing - which you clearly recognized - and tell her to wash it off right then. Then you have a calm, no-drama talk about why she was going to cheat, why she can't, and how to deal with test stress in acceptable ways.

When a kid has struggles in school that are at least partly beyond thier control (ADHD) attempting to bribe them with something (cell phone) to do better can often backfire, especially when the kid doesn't have the tools and support they need to have a reasonable shot at it.

Either give her a phone, or don't, but separate the phone decision from her school struggle and remove that stress stone from her neck.

Instead of punishments for a situation you helped create, come up with home solutions for her studies. If she doesn't have a 504 for accommodations at school, get that done. If she isn't seeing someone for skills therapy and anxiety, arrange it. If she doesn't have medication for her condition, explore it.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I'm a teacher. No, she does not need to be punished. Maybe you can help her study a little if she's open to it, have her wash her hand, and tell her not to worry and to just do her best.

Punishing kids for "cheating" is the kind of thing that makes kids hate school. What's the phone for? A reward for all A's? What if she tries really hard but she only gets B's, or C's? Will you still give her a phone? What if she's just not capable of getting the grades you think she should get?

I don't think a phone should be tied to grades. If you feel she should get a phone at the end of 5th grade then get her a phone. But don't make school unpleasant and stressful. School should be joyous.

4 moms found this helpful

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answers from Boston on

I don't understand the school scheduling 3 major tests on the same day. Most schools coordinate so this doesn't happen. Does she have an IEP or something similar because of her disability so that she can take tests differently (perhaps spread out, perhaps untimed)?

And what is the definition of "doing well in school" for a child with a disability? Is she being asked to achieve at the same level as other kids without this disability? Has she been set up for failure?

And why, if she needs extra help and support, has a phone been tied to academic achievement? That's just setting her up to fail. Her stress level is clearly through the roof.

So, she didn't cheat, she eventually came clean about it, and she was honest. So I'd reevaluate what expectations her parents put on her that are unfair, and take ownership of those. I'd look at what the school expects of her that's unfair, and advocate for her to make reasonable accommodations. She is not responsible for not meeting unrealistic expectations, and she should be forgiven for even trying to beat a system stacked against her.

And if she has to do something to earn a phone, I'd make it more in the areas where she can achieve if she puts her mind to it, rather than in areas where she already has a bigger burden than many other kids. Maybe it's cleaning her room, maybe it's walking the dog every day, maybe it's helping clear the table. Maybe it's just getting the homework done and turned in, without such a focus on her actual letter grade. Whatever it is should be doable on a daily basis, something that she can manage, achieve success and feel good about her progress.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

I firmly believe that doing one's best in school is important. And it's different for nearly every kid.

For example, my ds was capable of doing extremely well, had no difficulties with learning or behavior or medical issues, and we expected excellent grades. He achieved that, and graduated from a very tough technical college with a 3.5 GPA.

My dd has multiple medical issues, plus anxiety and depression. She is considered disabled and receives SSI. It took her 7 years to get through high school in an online program with a 504 plan, and her GPA was 1.0. Yet for her, that was triumphant. She did her very best under difficult circumstances, multiple hospitalizations, and pain and illnesses.

In your daughter's case, I would not connect having a phone with doing "well" in school, if it means grades. You can still expect good behavior at school, being prompt, turning in homework on time (whether it's A+ work or if it's C-, if that's her best in that subject), not skipping any classes, being able to ask for help if it's needed, etc. In other words, not grades, but performance.

And the other criteria is personal responsibility. A kid who wants a phone, who loses backpacks and jackets, who routinely breaks things, who lends things like electronics to random kids at school, who can't put her bike away, who's late coming home from a friend's house, doesn't get a phone. But a reliable, careful, responsible child might. A child who will agree to certain sensible rules, such as parental access to passwords, parental rights to check the phone at any time, no phone use during school hours except for a true emergency, and turning in the phone to a charging station outside the bedroom at an agreed-upon hour, might earn a phone.

I'd evaluate what standards you're establishing as far as school performance, and disconnect those from phone ownership. But I'd still keep the end of the year goal, under different criteria (behavior, trustworthiness, reliability, etc).

And I'd make sure she was getting help at school, through a 504 plan or IEP. She's under too much pressure, without enough support, it seems. She might really profit from having a 504 plan (which offers accommodations, not a differently structured curriculum). A 504 plan might allow her more test-taking time, fewer tests at a time, etc.

I think she learned a valuable lesson from this experience, and I sincerely hope that you have noticed how much stress she's under, and why a phone shouldn't be a reward for grades that may be unattainable.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

You've given your TEN YEAR OLD daughter a "prize" - a carrot dangling in front of her face - and she's got ADHD - is she on ANY meds for this? Or are you using a PHONE as a "concentration" method?

I'd get her on meds to help her deal with her ADHD and NOT give her a "prize" for doing something in school.

While she DID write answers on her hand, she did NOT cheat. That was stopped. Why aren't you sitting with her and helping her? Maybe coming up with a study strategy together?? She's 10 - not 20.

She already got the punishment for ATTEMPTING to cheat. She did NOT CHEAT as it was stopped. so you did NOT "catch" her can't punish her for that. She didn't cheat.

Lesson learned. Press on.
Maybe you need to rethink your decision about a "PHONE" for "doing well" and make sure she does her BEST and that no matter what - you will love her and support her.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Technically..... she did not cheat (yet). She had not yet been put in the situation of taking the test and acting on her "plan". She very well could have planned to cheat and then thought about the consequences if she were caught at school and if you found out and then didn't act.

She is stressed. Parents (not saying you) put SO much pressure on their children now. I've been in the classroom 17 years and it is so much worse than years ago. I had a first grader have a meltdown because she missed 1 word on spelling. She was in tears and said she would be punished when she got home. WTH Her mom is an ex teacher at our school...Geesh Her meltdown was so disruptive that the counselor had to intervene.

3 tests in 1 day for a 5th grader is a bit much in my opinion. I know with high school final exams, 2 exams a at was the limit and we are in a very highly rated district.

Your daughter is dealing with a lot... ADHD, trying to be perfect, etc.

Thank her for being truthful.

We did not tie rewards such as a phone, money, with schoolwork. Our daughter knew that school was her "job" and her "job" was to do the best she could do. We did not expect straight A's, everyone will have that one class that you are proud to just pass.

Your daughter will soon be moving up to middle school and on. Do what you can to ease her stress. Her studies will continue to get more difficult as she goes up the grade levels.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

I have an 18 year old who struggled all through middle and high school because of her ADHD. She is very bright, but school was so difficult for her. She earned her high school degree at the end of the summer after taking some summer school classes this summer and last summer to make up for missed credits. My point is, your daughter has a long road ahead of her, and you want to be a trusted source of support and encouragement, rather than taking the punitive approach when she stumbles, or almost stumbles. In this case, she had the intention to cheat, but because you were paying attention and caught on, she did not actually cheat. I would talk to her about your values about honor and trust and that you would rather have her fail honestly, than get a good score by cheating. And know that if she's caught in school, she will be given a zero, which you will back as the right decision from the teacher/school for cheating. The natural consequence is that she lost some of your trust, and it will take awhile to earn it back. So she's going to naturally be watched a little more carefully for awhile. Check her hands and arms for writing before school periodically for a time, that's all I would do

4 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Children lie to stay out of trouble. You are still going to punish her for telling the truth so you see how you're just encouraging her to lie again? If you REALLY want her to be honest stop punishing her for coming clean and give her another chance.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

you know her motivation. she's got a big shiny sparkly incentive dangling in front of her, and has significant challenges to overcome to get there.

i myself would have focused in on the writing on the hand and less on forcing a confession of motivation out of her.

this is the problem with the big shiny sparkly incentives. cheating is a huge deal, and i'd be very loath to reward a child who resorted to it.

but you are also aware of the specific challenges she has, and how stressed she is trying to reach her goals.

i think you should focus less on Crime and Punishment and more on how to be supportive of her as she moves past this serious breach of trust and back into working on her goals. and that might involve taking a hard look at your parenting philosophies.

i have a hard line about lying. i have zero tolerance of lies. so there's that.

but as a parents we also have to look clearly and honestly at how we're setting our kids up for failure and encouraging deception, and that's the problem with hard lines like mine.

exactly how you'll handle this will depend largely on your own family dynamic, parenting philosophy and intimate knowledge of your own child's psyche, so i won't presume to try and spoon-feed you a nice tidy solution.

what i do suggest you do is have a heart-to-heart with your husband about how you want to address your daughter's very real stress and challenges, and how you can help (not just punish) her going forward. then i'd sit down with her and be very honest about both your anger and your concern. solicit her input. what does SHE think would be an appropriate consequence, both for the attempt at cheating and then for the lying? (they're both violations of honesty, but separate issues, so make sure you're clear in your own mind about how you want them handled.) let her have a say how she goes about making it right and regaining your trust. you don't have to accept her solutions and suggestions, but you should at the very least listen to them and take them seriously.

then, most importantly, ask her for her input in how to support her moving forward.

allowing her to have a say in this is a very big deal. you can shame her, or you can empower her.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I'm glad she told you the truth. I suggest you ask her what a fair punishment would be, and then consider it.

As for using a phone as a reward at the end of the year, may I suggest that the goal be to work diligently in her studies. It is the hard work that deserves a reward, not the success, which is dependent on so many things.

Secondly, I suggest you break down the steps to earning the reward into weekly acknowledgements. So I would review her efforts towards school each Friday, and give her a check mark on a chart if she worked hard that week. On weeks that she just let her school work go, she wouldn't get a check mark. Say there are 24 weeks of school left: she could earn the phone (or any other large reward) after accumulating 20 checkmarks. That would mean she worked hard to be a good student most weeks. If she needed one or two more checkmarks at the end of the year, she could earn them by completing meaningful summer school work.

All my best.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

Three tests in the same day? Wow! This must be a really competitive school! High school students complain when they have that many tests in the same week.

I think you need to take a really careful look at what it means for her to "do well in school." What does she need to do to earn the phone? Does she need to get straight A's? Is a B ok? Are you working with her to develop good study habits?

Cheating is not ok, but please understand how crazy it is for a 5th grader to have 3 tests in one day. That is a ton of pressure.

I'm really opposed to tying in rewards with grades. I believe very strongly in hard work and giving it your all. One quarter in 6th grade I got a D-. My parents might have freaked out, but they didn't do it in front of me. They spoke with the teacher to figure out what was happening and worked with me to do better. The next quarter I raised that grade to a B+, and my parents were crazy proud of me! I will never forget the many, many lessons I learned that year.

Please think about what you are teaching your daughter. If she's feeling so much pressure that she's planning to cheat, she's not learning the lessons you want her to learn.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

I don't think your daughter CHEATED, K.. You "caught" her PRIOR to it.

She's already been punished. She got caught.

You have a LOT of pressure on a 10 year old and a "bad" reward. Your daughter needs help, not a phone. If she is struggling in school to do ADHD? Change her diet, get her on meds, HELP HER. DO NOT give her the carrot/phone.

Sit down and HELP your daughter study.
Sit down and give her the TOOLS she needs to cope and do better in school.

You pushed her into a corner. She told you the truth. You created this when you gave the phone as the carrot/bright shiny object instead of HELPING HER with medications or tools to do better.

SHE TOLD YOU THE TRUTH. Please do not punish her any further.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

I’m not one for punishments other than natural consequences. The fact is she didn’t cheat. It also sounds like she learned a lesson. Isn’t that precisely what you wanted to achieve. I don’t think a punishment is needed. I do think it is horribly sad the pressure put on kids though.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

I think she's under too much pressure.
While you want your kid to do their best - wanting them to do better than they are able just makes for a miserable kid.

Put the lying and cheating to the side for the time being and address the cause instead of the symptoms.
Recognize a cry for help when you see one - because that's what this cheating is all about.
Would a tutor help her?
Can she better organize her notes/planner?
Are there any after school help sessions with the teacher?

If you think things are bad now - middle school is going to be a real shocker for you both.
She needs help and guidance - not punishment.
Get this right now and you will save yourself some hair tearing later on.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

Here's what I'm thinking. She's so afraid of failing that she's willing to think up ideas on how to not get in trouble for not doing well on tests.

What meds is she on for her ADHD? Have you assessed whether it's still effective? Her brain is firing off like crazy and connections aren't being made, she might have every single piece of information but not be able to access it due to her synapsis not working right. ADHD is a biological problem and medications can make their lives like night and day. If she's on meds it might be time to reassess how they're working. If she's not on any medications I'd say she's showing you in lots of ways how much she needs the medication to help her brain do what it needs to do.

What therapies does she use to study, why is she studying anyway? She's in 5th grade and should be doing this work at school. I read some research on the department of education's page about homework, they say kids do better academically if they DO NOT bring school work home with them. They actually do better if they go out and play, do things with their family, and have a life outside of school work.

Kids who have a school life then have a home life that's seperate do much better. Just like adults. If you bring your work home with you every single day and spend hours at home doing your work then go to bed only to get up and go back to doing it again the next morning and then bring it home with you again, it burns you out and it stresses you out.

Kids need a break from school and 7-8 hours per day is enough for them to get what they need to know. Doing things like spelling words, in fun ways, are okay but opening the books and spending hours studying or doing busy work homework is not good for the kids.

Our school district has almost no homework. The teachers teach in school and don't sent anything home with the kids unless they just do not get their work for the day finished. Not assigned to do at home-homework-like for your math homework do pages 45 and 46, odd problems, turn them in tomorrow morning. That's busy work.

Our overall test scores have soared. The kids can talk about what they've learned and recall it later on. They're learning better.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Indianapolis on

I would just let her know that I am disappointed in her but since she finally told the truth I would forgive her. I would tell her the next time I wont be so forgiving with a lie. I would go on to tell her that cheating is the same as lying and all you want is for her to do her best. If she doesn't make a grade that you want her to make tell her you're ok with it as long as she did her best. She doesn't have to cheat in order for you to be proud of her grades. I think sometimes we put so much pressure on our children that they will do anything not to disappoint us. Good luck!


answers from Springfield on

shes stressed out. she admitted and told the truth. the punishment is yours momma, you need to help your child cope. help her study, teach her ways to relieve the stress. find out what helps her remember (for me it was repeated writings of the thing i needed to know) for my brother he could read it 3x and remember it find out your childs best way to remember and then have her do it with schoolwork and for tests.
if you really think that she needs punishement for this then remove all screen time till after she takes the tests.for you you can say shes grounded from it, for her its being shut off to help her focus on studying.

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