The Cheating Child

Cheating at Games

Watch how children play board games or card games and you'll be surprised by the competitiveness, sometimes deteriorating into cheating. Kids under the age of 5 generally don't attach any moral value to cheating. They're just playing. And the kids they're playing with often won't hold a grudge. Kids between the ages of 5 and 7, however, will get a bit more sneaky with their cheating -- quietly taking an extra turn in a game or purposely miscounting when moving a playing piece across a board.

At this point, the kids usually know they're doing something wrong, but they don't really care, explains Lawrence Balter, PhD, a child psychologist in New York. By the time a child is 8 years old, however, he's well aware that cheating is wrong. If a child this age continues to cheat, it may be the result of a feeling of inadequacy or underperformance more than a desire to win. And now there's more at risk than just getting in trouble; older children who have habit of bending the rules are often labeled as "cheaters," which can irreparably damage their relationships with their peers.

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