Let's face it. We live in a competitive society. So much of what we do -- from making a living to following professional sports teams -- is a competition. So it's no wonder that children as young as 2 already put an importance on winning. It's this desire to be successful that drives the majority of children to cheat at one time or another.
But how do you handle these cheating episodes and what can you do to put an end to them? Here are some helpful tips on what motivates a child to cheat and how you should deal with it.
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.
Parents are often devastated when they find out that their child copied someone else's homework or peeked over a classmate's shoulder during an exam. But it's actually more common than you think. According to a 2001 survey of 4,500 high school students by Donald L. McCabe, a Rutgers University professor, 97 percent of the respondents admitted to at least one activity that would be considered questionable when it comes to academic integrity. So why do so many kids cheat? Most cheating episodes fall into one of two categories:
The most important thing you can do if you find your child cheating is to act immediately. It's important that a child find out right away that he hasn't gotten away with anything. Here's an age-by-age guide to handling your child's cheating:
Respond immediately, but in a light manner -- even making a joke of the situation. This will let her know that cheating is something she can't get away with without punishing her for doing something that she probably didn't know was wrong in the first place.
With children this age, you should be a bit stricter in your response. But avoid excessive punishment. Instead, sit your child down and ask her why she cheated. Discuss the seriousness of what she did and ask her about the kinds of stresses and pressures that may have motivated her to cheat.
If a child this age continues to have a chronic cheating problem or gets labeled a "cheater" at school, he may need further help. Often, cheating at this age is a symptom of an internal emotional struggle or peer pressure. Seek assistance from a mental health counselor or a child guidance clinic.
While the majority of children cheat from time to time, there are things a parent can do to prevent their child from repeating this behavior. Here are some guidelines:
Sources: National PTA; Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5-12 (Bantam 1999); American Academy of Pediatrics; Lawrence Balter, PhD
The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's condition.