But like lying and stealing “cheating” is an adult concept not well understood by the child under six. To an adult, cheating is akin to lying or stealing. But a child who is fabricating his own rules as he grows does not yet understand why rules are not supposed to be changed or broken. Best to translate cheating into a positive value — fairness. Even a six-year-old can understand “play fair.” Teach your child that cheating is wrong because it’s unfair to other children in the game. Ask him how he would feel if he played fair but his friends didn’t. Notice as you play games with children from six to ten, they often change the rules to their favor even if they understand them in the first place. There’s no problem with changing the rules, as long as all the players agree before the game begins. This kind of rule change adds creativity to board (or bored) games.
The child who cheats at school is a matter for discipline. Does the child cheat without remorse? Many times the child feels forced into cheating because of parental pressure or the spirit of competitiveness in the class. The desire to please parents with high expectations can override even the most solid little conscience. The temptation to cheat is especially strong in a child with a weak self-image who equates self-worth with accomplishment. If he wins he’s a winner; if he loses he’s a loser. So he must win even if he has to cheat to do so. This unhealthy attitude can develop if you model that winning is all that counts when playing (or working) with adults.
You can help your child avoid the temptation to cheat at school. Take care to put just the right amount of scholastic pressure on the child. Too little and he gets lazy and bored, and becomes unfulfilled and unhappy; too much and he either gives up or cheats to achieve. Try to find the balance that fits your child. We have given our children the message that good grades make you feel good and that they are one (not the only) ticket to success. We tell them that we want them to get good grades first to please themselves and second to please us. They are in control, based on how much work they are willing to do, of achieving their goals. We will be pleased if they sincerely do their best — no one can ask for more.
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