Giving Grace When Your Child Cheats

In the spring of 2002, I discovered that my 5th grader had been cheating in Math for quite some time. And he wasn’t cheating in the typical sense; he was just putting down any old answer instead of working the problems. Then, he would “check them”, and tell me how he had done for the day. He was smart enough to not always give himself a one hundred.  As a matter of fact, on the day I found out, he had told me he missed two problems that day.

I happened to be in his room and picked up his Math notebook and started flipping through it. And that’s when I saw it. He was literally writing down a digit or two for each problem and had been for about 2 or 3 months. I was stunned. He is a very smart person, and strong in Math. But he is also like his Mama and gets bored very easily.

He ended up doing Math all day for the rest of the school year, after his other subjects were done, to get caught up. He also had extra Math to do just because he cheated. And unfortunately, I did not handle the situation well.

I was so angry with him. I yelled and I scolded. I made him feel terrible. And I went on and on. I was angry for a long time. Lying is something I just do not abide.

grace for cheating


Fast forward 12 years to today.

Today- several months after I began studying the book Give Them Grace with 6 wonderful ladies. Yep, you guessed it.

This afternoon, I sat down with a 6th grader to help him along with his Math. I knew he was having trouble with fractions, so instead of being called over to the computer every two minutes, I just pulled up a chair. And we started working through problems.

I believe we made it through about 12 problems before I realized there was more than a slight misunderstanding about fractions. There were some major problems all around. And that’s when it struck me. This child had been telling me how many problems he had missed every day, but said he had corrected them and gotten them right the second time around. I realized that he had been seeing the correct answer and just filling it in on his second try.

So I asked him if he had been cheating. He said, “No.” I asked if he was looking at the right answer and filling it in on the second try. He sat there staring. I turned him around to face me and asked again, “Is that what you’re doing, Son?” And after a short pause, he finally said, “Yes ma’am.”

I very quietly told him to close down his Math program. He walked out of the room to his bedroom and sat on his bed. I started supper. And I haven’t said another word to him about it. I did let him know that he will be doing lots of extra Math to get caught up to where he should be. He said, “Yes ma’am.” And I sat by him at supper and we didn’t discuss it anymore. I have not raised my voice once. I have not told him how bad he is.

I haven’t said things like, “I can’t believe you did this!! How could you cheat like this?? Do you know how hard Daddy works so that you can stay home with me and receive your education at home?? Don’t you want an education??”

I haven’t said a word like that. This time.

In the past, before I began to get a glimpse of what grace looks like, I would have said all of those things. And probably more.

But now…now I have begun to learn and understand that grace doesn’t scream and yell and call names and throw fits.

Grace knows that every one of us is more than capable of cheating and worse.

     Jeremiah 17:9- “For the heart is deceitful above all else, and desperately sick; who can know it?” 

Grace knows that my son is a sinner just like his Mama.

    Romans 3:23- “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

And grace shows its true colors when we are at our very worst.

Romans 5:8- “And God showed His love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” 

So now, when I find out a child is cheating, lying, stealing, hitting, or whatever trouble they manage to get into, I do not despair. Grace shows me a better way. Grace says, “Forgive. Love. Move on.”

Some folks claim that showing grace means there are no consequences for actions. But is that true? God is grace, and yet don’t we face consequences for our actions? I know I do! He loves us too much to let us “get away” with our sins. But He also loves us enough to not make us feel unaccepted, unloved, and unforgiven. God never says to us, “I can’t believe you did that. What were you thinking? How could you???” Because He knows how we could do it, He can completely believe it, and He is never shocked by our sin. We are, after all, sinners. And He covers over it all with His love and grace.

1 Peter 4:8- “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”

This grace thing is all new to me. I didn’t grow up with grace, and I haven’t, up until now, raised my own children with grace. I really didn’t understand grace at all. But the more I study, and the more I see God’s grace in my own life, the more my heart is softened toward my children. They are sinners, and God provides grace for sinners. If I am to be like my Savior, I have no other option than grace.

Consequences for actions, yes. Shouting and making my children feel unaccepted, definitely not.

1 Peter 4:8- “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”