Dear Rhonda and Dr. Cheri,

My son got mad at me today when he admitted to cheating at school, using his phone. I was surprised and reacted badly. He said he thought he wouldn’t get into trouble because he told me the truth.

Then he said he told me the truth because he needs my help to make changes and work on getting better grades.

But he wants me to keep this from his father.

I said I can’t keep the lie from his dad or his dad will lose trust in us.

My son started lashing out about how his father and I tell many lies. However, he’s talking about tactful comments we make, not lies.

I don’t know how to fix this and I feel guilty.

Signed,

Guilty or not

Dear Not,

Cheating is a moral issue. Your son’s dilemma is more about making right choices.

Our culture has a difficult time accepting that there are absolutes about what’s right versus wrong.

His justification and choice to lie and cheat is wrong and has negative consequences.

Freedom of choice is both a curse and a gift.

“Accessing information” dishonestly will curse your son in two ways: 1. He will lose the trust of others and 2. He will lose the gift of a true education.

In robbing himself of a quality education, he also denies himself the gifts of accomplishment, confidence, faith in himself, dignity and self-worth.

His trying to compare you and your diplomacy with his choice to cheat and steal a grade he doesn’t deserve, isn’t the same thing.

He, unfortunately, has a lot of company:

35 percent of teens admit to using a cell phone, at least once, to cheat at school.

65 percent of teens report that other students use phones to cheat.

17 percent of students report taking pictures of test questions to send to other students.

A quarter of students do not consider the following acts cheating:

Checking notes on a cell phone during a test.

Searching the internet for an answer during a test.

Texting friends with answers during a test.

Your choice to set boundaries and not lie to your spouse is a great choice. Your example is priceless for your son.

He’s started the grieving process of going through loss from his choice to cheat.

This includes: Denial (he didn’t cheat); Anger (blaming you for his bad choice); Bargaining (manipulation of his dad); Depression (he’s robbed himself of his education); and Acceptance (the reality that he has to earn his own grades for his own benefit).

Stick to your boundaries for your son’s sake.

Signed,

Rhonda and Dr. Cheri

Rhonda Orr is the president of Rhonda’s STOP BULLYING Foundation and host of a podcast at therhondaorrshow.com. Dr. Cheri L. McDonald, PhD, LMFT, is a crime-victim specialist. Write them at Rhonda@rhondastopbullying.org.