When your school-aged child is caught cheating, it is important to address the motivation and underlying factors behind the behavior. In this fashion, you can both address the behavior and the root cause with an appropriate action.

Common reasons children cheat

  • Feeling pressure to be the best and to win

  • Immaturity that limits the child's ability to recognize that they are not the center of the universe and others can be better than they are at certain tasks

  • A lack of self-esteem

  • A lack of preparation for a difficult task

Each of these issues need to be addressed differently.

1. It's OK to be number 2, 8, or 20

Parents can unwittingly put pressure on their children by constantly bragging about their accomplishments to others. While your child is, undoubtedly, the apple of your eye, he or she is not the best at every task.

If your child constantly receives the message that they need to come out on top, no matter what, they will feel pressure to live up to that expectation. They may turn to cheating because they do not want to disappoint their parents.

In the last moments of Pixar's, "The Incredibles," the super hero parents cheer on their son in a race to "take a solid second." Celebrate more than being the best. Focus on your child's efforts and progress in your praise.

2. You'll win some and lose some

Children younger than about 7 years of age are still working within a frame of thought that Swiss psychologistJean Piagetcalled pre-operational thought. In this paradigm, a child believes that he or she is the center of the universe and is developmentally incapable of seeing the world from another person's point of view.

This way of perceiving the world makes it hard for a child to see that when they cheat, they are affecting another person's ability to win and potentially hurting another person's feelings.

A good book that shows the ups and downs of life and reminds children that it's OK when things don't always go their way is, "Oh the Places You'll Go," by Dr. Seuss.

Introducing these concepts to your child at an early age, can open the door to understanding that life includes peaks and valleys. This knowledge can reduce the need they feel to cheat to remain on top of the game.

3. Preparation reigns supreme

When a child feels like they are not able to meet a challenging task, the temptation to cheat can be greater. In this case, the best solution to fight this temptation is to simply spend time helping your child to prepare for quizzes, tests, or other assignments. When they feel better about the material they are less inclined to cheat.

Your child needs to understand that cheating has consequences. When caught cheating, they are likely to lose the trust of others. Any achievement obtained by cheating will not be as satisfying to them, since it was not earned. Anything won by cheating will forever be sullied by the memory that it came through cheating. Finally, if a peer catches a child cheating, they are less likely to want to play with or be friends with them.

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