Integrity Matters
October 22, 2003

Parents, don't do the homework for your children

Question: (E-073)

Dear Jim:

My daughter came home with a story that is appalling to me. Her friend in her English class at our local high school turned in a paper on the Supreme Court and received the only "A" in the class. When I told my daughter, "That's wonderful," she took issue, and said her friend's mother actually wrote it for her daughter, because the girl was behind, frantic -- and besides, the girl knew her mother would do it for her.

What chance does that girl have if she always finds someone to do her work for her? Where is our country's future if the young children of today are taught that this form of parental fraud is OK?


This is a disappointing story. Assuming your daughter has the facts, then we are looking at lying, cheating, stealing and negligence. Your daughter's friend has a mother who has abdicated leadership responsibilities as a parent and citizen. Your daughter's friend has been taught that cheating is OK in order to win. Some other child has likely been denied the recognition of having created the best paper. This is simply an awful representation of gross negligence of parental responsibility.

The daughter is being taught by this example -- to lie to people in positions of responsibility in order to achieve recognition. She now knows how to avoid commitments. She is being shown how to cheat the system in order to win, and worse, is being assisted in the fraud by her own mother. Parental negligence is apparent. This young woman is at risk in lots of ways.

Parental responsibilities include teaching accountability. Poor school habits have long-term negative consequences, and should not be replaced by parental interference. Instead of holding her daughter accountable, this selfish and shortsighted mother is passing along the dishonesty that is eating away at our society. This daughter has been enabled to betray her responsibility to learn and to perform. She has broken her trust with her teacher. And, her very own mother is helping her to run even further from responsibility. This mother and daughter need help.

However, you can turn this into a learning experience for your own daughter, using it as a way to put across the values that you obviously hold, of honesty, accountability and character. Consider asking your daughter to think through whether she should be associating herself with so-called friends who lack the integrity to do their own work, and ask her whether her cheating friend could be counted upon to be honorable in defense of her friends? Would she ever again trust this girl when she might be saying "I did this?"

Without the keystone of integrity beginning within the family, the structures of our society are at risk. Here is the good news: If you explain why you would never sanction such plagiarism, your daughter will have been taught solid values, learned to appreciate the consequences of dishonest behavior, and see you in the light of integrity-centered parenting.

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