I've spent 14 years working with teens (nine as a paid youth pastor). Nothing got my goat more than cheating. It wasn't uncommon for teens (yes, even those good "church kids") to come to youth group and spend the first 15 minutes of free time "sharing" their homework answers.
I confronted cheating every time I saw it. The excuses they gave rang hollow.
"Everyone else does it."
"It's just homework. It's only 10% of my final grade. It's not a big deal."
"The teacher knows we do it and he doesn't say anything."
"I just have way too much homework every night. This is the only way I can get it all done and still get decent grades."
Is it any wonder kids graduate high school without knowing how to read?
We believe our kids should succeed OR FAIL based on their own merits, not on how sneaky they can be. Honesty isn't something that can (or should) be turned off and on based on circumstances. Dishonesty is cancer. It always starts small.
When I got home from work tonight Neti, Meke, and Kailey were playing Dutch Blitz
, a high-speed and sometimes rowdy card game. The game starts with each player having four of their forty cards face up. ONES are good to have face up at the beginning. TWOS are also good.
I was in the room next door and heard the some arguing between Neti and Kailey (go figure). Neti and Meke had "shuffled" their cards and came up with more ONES than normal.
It looked suspicious. I proposed the solution: "Just shuffle again and start over." I left.
Once again the arguing started. I went to investigate. In front of Neti sat the best hand I'd ever seen: ONE, ONE, ONE, TWO. Meke had ONE, ONE, TWO, FOUR. (FYI: Each player only has four ones in their entire deck!)
"Neti, did you shuffle?"
"Yes, Daddy. We shuffled three times."
I had my doubts. I've played Dutch Blitz hundreds of times without ever having one hand that good, let alone two in a row. Either I have the luckiest two little girls in the world or there's something deceptive going on in their little hearts.
I reshuffled Neti's and Meke's hands for them and they continued playing.
Later, on the way to Bethany's basketball game I had a chance to talk with the girls alone in the van (Rhonda and Kailey rode in a separate vehicle).
"Neti and Meke. I want you to tell Daddy the truth. Did you cheat at Dutch Blitz?"
"Did you put the cards to come up with all ONES?"
"You know it's really cool to come up with all ONES because you can win faster. But that doesn't hardly ever happen. It never happens every time. If it happens every time then people think that you're cheating."
"Cheating isn't a good thing. It's fun because it helps you win, but it's really like like lying or stealing. And if you cheat, you really didn't win anyway, because the game wasn't fair. The person who cheats makes the game not fair for everyone else. Mommy and I don't want anyone in our family to learn how to cheat."
The van was completely silent the rest of the way to the game. I didn't say another word.
I didn't need to.