Melissa CrossmanCheating, or academic dishonesty as many schools refer to the practice, is a problem that continues to persist in the field of education. And for teachers who aim to fill their students’ heads with knowledge and prepare them for the future, this is a serious issue. When students cheat they fail to fully engage in the learning process and, as such, will likely not acquire the knowledge necessary for later-life success.

Whether students engage in this type of behavior in online classes or as part of their traditional, brick-and-mortar schooling, it will necessarily adversely affect their learning. While parents may not be able to prevent their children from cheating, they can reduce the likelihood that their students make academic dishonesty a common practice by engaging in frank discussions and being on the lookout for cheating.

Discuss Cheating

You can’t assume your child knows what cheating is and that it’s bad. As a responsible parent, you must sit down with your child and talk about cheating. When having this talk, make it a conversation, not a sermon. Ask your child if he knows what cheating is and listen to his answer. Add to his definition of cheating if it isn’t sufficient. Talk to him about why cheating is wrong, highlighting the fact that if he cheats he will not learn the material necessary for long-term success. Not only will this conversation leave your child with a clear understanding of why cheating is a problem, it will also show him that you care about him and that you want him to be academically successful, potentially increasing his desire to give his coursework his all.

Be Specific

When talking to your child about cheating, avoid the overuse of generalizations. Don’t simply tell him to be honest or to refrain from breaking rules. Instead, talk about specific behaviors you don’t want to see. Tell him, for example, that you never want to hear that he copied a friend’s homework or that you don’t want to receive a call from a teacher telling you he was cheating on a test. By giving him these specifics, you can improve the likelihood that he fully understands what you’re demanding of him.

Punish Appropriately for Cheating

If you get a report from your child’s school that he was caught cheating, don’t take this lightly. It isn’t sufficient to assume the detention or other school-based sanction your child received for cheating will serve as sufficient punishment. Apply a penalty at home as well to show your child you don’t agree with his behavior and it won’t be tolerated. Along with this punishment, make it clear to your child that you’re disappointed in him. For many children eager to capture their parents’ approval, knowing Mom and Dad are disappointed will have more of a lasting impact than any other punishment can.

Monitor Your Child

Even after talking to your child, you should remain a proactive parent. It will be harder for your child to cheat if you’re closely monitoring what he’s doing each time he sits down to complete his homework. Stay up-to-date on the assignments your child is completing. Pay attention to how long it takes him to complete these tasks. If you notice he’s blazing through them at an unusually high pace, he may be cheating.

Also, after he completes these assignments, look through them and make sure they seem to be written by your student. If the assignments contain words or phrases your child doesn’t know, they’re likely not his doing. If you suspect your child is cheating after you’ve already discussed how detrimental the practice is, call him out on it.

While it may seem that, as a parent, it isn’t your job to police your child and ensure he doesn’t cheat, by watching out for the telltale signs of cheating you can do a great deal to help ensure your child reaps the maximum benefit from his time in the classroom. Consider the time you spend talking to your child about the problems associated with dishonesty and monitoring his academic behaviors an investment in his future. These efforts may well improve his chances of academic success.

Melissa Crossman blogs on behalf of Colorado Technical University. She holds a Master’s degree in Education and previously taught Junior High English classes. You can follow her on Twitter @melcrossman3.