If Monopoly is to be believed, cheaters can indeed prosper. That's the MO behind the newest version of the game, the Cheaters Edition, which encourages you to bend and break the rules to come out ahead and win it all. The game pushes players to sneak cash out of another player's stash, underpay their rent, or shortchange an opponent when giving them money back on their rent in order to line their pockets. (Though apparently, if they do get caught, they might end up in jail—which at least lends a bit of a consequence and risk to the proceedings.)
But I'm wondering what kind of message we're sending to kids if we put the Cheaters Edition under the Christmas tree. It's definitely not the way I'm trying to guide my children in our daily lives. I make sure they see that fairness and doing what's right is nonnegotiable—I make a big deal of returning extra money when the cashier gives us too much or looking for the owner of something valuable we found, rather than just pocketing it. But I'd be worried that this fun little foray into scamming their opponents could undermine those painstaking lessons, and lead to them taking a chance on a less savory way to get ahead, such as cheating on a test or in sports to come out a winner.
And parenting expert Alyson Schaefer, author of Honey, I Wrecked the Kids, agrees that Cheaters Monopoly could be sending kids the wrong message. "Play is supposed to help kids learn," she says. "But the difference between fantasy and reality for younger kids is not always clear. Teaching them to win at any cost—they'll translate these strategies into other things, like forging parents' signature, or copying off someone's exam page."
And let's face it—it's hard enough to make these lessons stick, when they see so many instances of cheaters getting ahead—from star athletes who dope to politicians who bend the rules, to even a little bit of not-so-fair play on the part of their competitors on the soccer field. We don't need to turn playing dirty into a fun activity.
There's nothing bad about teaching kids to work hard and be competitive to strive for that win—and my daughters definitely get those lessons in spades. (Just ask my youngest daughter, who's been trying for the past three years to beat me at chess.) But kids also need to know that there's a limit to how far they can go for that win—and cheating isn't part of it.