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By Heidi Stevens

Chicago Tribune

Your high schooler cheated on a big assignment. Is this a sign of larger problems?

Parent advice (from Tribune staff):

Cheating is abhorrent. The fact it happened is certainly a sign of a larger problem: not knowing right from wrong. Blow the whistle on him or her!

– Bill Daley

Certainly you want to get at the root cause of the behavior, especially if it’s a massive fear of failure or if the kid is collapsing under the weight of high expectations. But be awake to the possibility that he/she just took the lazy way out and thought he/she would get away with it. In any case, a high schooler is old enough to understand that actions have consequences, and whatever the reason for the cheating, those consequences have to be administered.

– Phil Vettel

Expert advice:

“Most kids know the difference between right and wrong,” says family counselor Michael Riera, author of “Uncommon Sense for Parents With Teenagers” (Ten Speed Press). “Adults make the mistake of thinking they don’t know the difference and then lecturing them on that.”

Instead, the conversation should center on making better choices, he says.

“When I talk to kids who got in trouble, I ask, ‘Was there a part of you, while you were cheating, that thought this was a bad idea and you shouldn’t do it?’ ” Riera says. “Ninety-nine percent of kids say yes.” The question is why they ignored it.

“Now, instead of lecturing, you say, ‘OK, that’s the part I’m concerned about. You knew the right thing to do. What got in the way of you listening to yourself?’ ” Riera says.

“Adolescence is such a narcissistic time of life,” he says. “Which is great because now you’ve made a narcissist more interesting to themselves. You’ve sent them on an internal journey. They may not have an answer – most kids don’t. But you need to set them on that journey.”