When Kaci Taylor Avant got caught cheating on a test a few months back, the teacher called her mother, who was nothing less than stunned. After all, Kaci always does her homework and gets mostly As in school. Mother and daughter had already had “the talk” about how cheating was wrong. And then there’s Kaci’s age.
“I had to ask myself, ‘Wow, really? She is only 8!’ ” says her mother Laina Avant, a Paterson, N.J., network engineer.
As school-testing season heats up this spring, many elementary-school parents are getting similar calls.
The line between right and wrong in the classroom is often hazy for young children, and shaping the moral compass of children whose brains are still developing can be one of the trickiest jobs a parent faces. Many parents overreact or misread the motivations of small children, say researchers and educators, when it is actually more important to explore the underlying cause.
A growing body of research suggests responses for parents, adjusting strategies in subtle ways by each age.