Inventions, Creations, Experiments,  School Today: Eraserboard Jungle

Crime & Punishment

The note was written on cheery teacher paper decorated with apples, pencils and dancing letters.

Mrs. Glamore:
I found this paper in Drew’s desk before we took our spelling test. He was going to use it to cheat. I have talked to him about how this is wrong. He will miss 10 minutes of recess today.

Ms. Forest

Attached to the note was the evidence:


I was shocked at the accusation that Drew was cheating. I would have believed it of Finn, who has a devious streak, or Porter, who isn’t that sure of himself at school. But Drew is Bill’s clone: a rule-follower, a hard worker, a person who takes pride in a job well done. We’d been practicing spelling words every night. There was no doubt that Drew knew how to spell them.

I read the note again. While I’m usually in favor of supporting the teachers, it seemed awfully presumptuous of Ms. Forest to state that Drew “was going to use it to cheat” without any other proof. Perhaps he was merely studying the tiny sheet of paper before the test. I called Drew into my bedroom for a consult.

“Hey, dude,” I said. “Sit down on my bed and tell me about your spelling test today.”

He looked at me, and his marshmallow white face grew even paler, and his eyes got red and filled with tears. He looked so pathetic it was all I could do not to skip this part and just hug him.

“I wrote my spelling words on a tiny piece of paper really small and put it in my desk and my teacher found it before our spelling test and I got in trouble,” he whispered. He started crying and his face was wet.

“What were you going to do with the paper?” I asked gently.

“If I couldn’t remember how to spell any of my words I was going to look at it,” he confessed. He trembled, and fell into my lap sobbing. I pulled him to me.

I felt like crying, too, but I held myself together. I talked to Drew about cheating, and how it’s wrong. It’s a lot like lying, and God tells us not to lie. I pointed out that once people think you’re a liar or a cheater, it can be impossible to change their minds, so it’s very important to protect your reputation for truthfulness.

“Plus, goofball, you knew all those words,” I told him. “And if you make a mistake, it’s not the end of the world. I would rather know you are studying and trying your hardest and have you make some mistakes than have you cheat and make an A every time.”

Drew nodded miserably.

“Daddy and I take cheating very seriously,” I said. “Missing ten minutes of recess is a wimpy punishment, and our rule is that if you get punished at school, you also get punished at home. Daddy and I will talk about your punishment and let you know what we decide.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Drew said. He trudged off to his room and I heard him crawl under his covers, even though it was a delicious day outside.

I sat alone for a moment, dumbfounded. Although Drew isn’t always the cleanest kid around, and sometimes he goes overboard in trying to make his brothers happy, in general he’s a great kid. What does it mean when you cheat on a spelling test in the second grade? Was it proof that Drew was rotten to the core, or was it just diligence taken to the extreme? I didn’t have time to ponder the thought long, because I had to alert my husband about the latest events in the Glamore house.

To: Bill Glamore
From: Anne Glamore
Re: Your Son The Sinner

Drew got caught cheating at school today– actually his teacher found his cheat sheet just before the test. She made him miss 10 minutes of recess which is like no punishment at all, in my view. Cheating is serious. We do not want him to grow up and be a white-collar criminal. Please be thinking of what we should do.

Luv yr sexy wife

To: Anne Glamore
From: Bill Glamore
Re: OUR Son The Cheater Who Is Innocent Til Proven Guilty

I want to be involved in the talk and punishment so hold off.

Your Sweet Thang

To: Bill Glamore
From: Anne Glamore
Re: The Criminal

He confessed and we’ve had a talk already. You’d have approved. It was just as effective as the sex talk but not nearly as juicy. In fact, it was heartbreaking. Will wait for you to impose punitive measures. Call me when you’re on the way home so I can boil the water for noodles. It’s for linguine in clam sauce but we’re calling it “Chicken Pasta” so the boys will eat it.

Luv Your Very Own Rachael Ray

Of course, this isn’t the first time Bill and I have had to dream up an appropriate punishment for a severe infraction. Disciplining kids is harder than it appears. Because our kids don’t get to watch TV or play computer games during the week, we can’t take those away when they act up. We don’t have Game Boys or X Boxes and that stuff. (I know, you’re thinking that simply living with us is punishment enough, aren’t you?)

Drew isn’t much of a biker, so while taking that away for a week would be devastating to Porter or Finn, Drew would hardly notice. He loves to draw, but even if we put up his fancy art supplies, he would always be able to scrounge up a pencil and a piece of paper. He’s way into soccer, but it wouldn’t be fair to the team to make him sit out a game because of misbehavior that was his alone.

At last we decided on a punishment that seemed workable. Drew has three favorite Tshirts that he wears to school day after day. We decreed that for the next week, he’d have to wear a collared shirt to school like the ones that he wears to church. Our hope was that this would help remind him of the lessons he learns at Sunday School: not to lie, and to be honest.

We also made him remove the necklace he made at camp out of three pieces of blue embroidery thread, which he has worn since the day he made it. It means a lot to him, and he tugs on it constantly. Again, our thought was that every time he reached up to tug on it and found it gone, he’d be reminded of the consequences of cheating.

I’ll admit, Bill and I had a serious discussion over the removal of the necklace. As the only female in a houseful of boys, I take great pride in any fashion statement made by any of the boys, and I loved that Drew wore that piece of thread every day like it was the coolest thing imaginable. I gave in, though, and Bill was right. Drew was nonchalant when he heard he’d be wearing collared shirts to school, but he cried copiously when Bill told him the necklace would have to stay at home as well.

Sunday night, Drew set out a striped polo, then came to me in my bathroom.

“Do you think you could get my necklace off without having to cut it?” he asked me hopefully.

I bent down and squeezed him. “Honey, I’ll do the best I can. I bet if I put a pin through the knot I can pull it loose so we don’t have to cut it,” I said.

I wrestled with it for a few minutes, finally resorting to a safety pin, tweezers and my reading glasses, but I was able to remove the thread in one whole piece. I held it up to show him. Drew smiled.

“I’ll put this in my jewelry box until Friday so nothing will happen to it, okay?” I asked.

Drew nodded.

Then I took him by the hand and we walked down the hall where I tucked him into bed.



  • Earth Girl

    I can’t believe you got crtical comments for this. Knowing your children and what punishment suits each child is important. I also wonder if he even knew what he was doing was wrong. I suspect he learned the lesson.

  • Monica

    Sheesh. Is everybody a critic?! I haven’t procreated yet, but I firmly believe that you handled this is in the exact right way for YOUR CHILD. After all, he did come out of you, you know him best, right? I remember cheating on my own spelling test in the 4th grade and got caught. The teacher called me into the hall, I confessed, cried and she hugged me. She told me she was disappointed that I chose to cheat and my parents would be disappointed too. Don’t worry, I made it through college without cheating and I’m even in grad school now. I’m sure Drew is not in for a life of crime.

  • Breah

    Oh my gosh, as a Christian, a mother of two under the ages of three, and (I believe) intelligent person, parenting is so unbelievably hard. I think you did a great job with your decision on the punishment. Congratulations on just surviving it this far!!!
    First time reader today, and ya got me hooked girl! Kudos.

  • lexi daly

    i’m pretty sure i read this on your old blog, but i don’t remember the criticism–i don’t always read the comments if i’m in a rush, i guess. so many blogs, so little time!

    i think you handled this so well. a punishment doesn’t have to be harsh to be meaningful, especially for a first offense.

  • Mandy

    I think you did the perfect thing. I am shocked you were criticized for it. People are so judgemental of others. I think you are a super mom!

    I often think about you when I am letting the girls watch cartoons during the week and wish I was stronger about this subject as you are. Thing is, right now, while they’re this little, watching cartoons is the only way I can make sure I can get a bath once a day.

    I hope I can grow into a great mom of twins, like you seem to be!