If your child has a challenge with cheating, there are several things to do to help your child realize the seriousness of the situation and to prevent the behavior from escalating in the future. Often, cheating follows a problem with lying. Cheating can bring on more serious problems for children, such as a lowered self-esteem, depression and loss of friends.
When your child cheats try to find out the underlying reason for the behavior, but do not justify it. Cheating should be seen as behavior that cannot be tolerated no matter the reason they are cheating.
1. Make sure your child knows that you fully disapprove of cheating
When the cheating happens during a game or other family activity, express disapproval with the behavior as soon as you notice it. You can suspend the game, restart it, or simply ask your child to sit out and continue playing with the other members of the family. Saying, "It makes me sad that you are not following the rules and not being fair," gets the message across to your child without being extremely punitive. Express to your child that it is not enjoyable to play with someone who is cheating and no one (children or adults) likes to play with someone who is not fair.
2. Find and use examples
Teaching your child about personal integrity is a challenging task. It is tricky in today's world as so many scandals arise with high-paid sports superstars found cheating. Discuss these circumstances (and the consequences) with your children whenever they come into the mainstream media. Show your child that once someone is found cheating, their public image is forever tarnished.
3. Be an example
Make sure you don't, unknowingly, give your child a green light to feel that they must win every game or contest in which they compete. This can begin as early as the preschool years when playing games with a child. If they see you cheating to allow them to win they get a few messages that are confusing and need to be addressed. They learn that they deserve to win at all costs, and you are showing them that you only have fun with them when they win. This can carry into the school years with misconceptions. Letting your child lose sometimes teaches them to be fair and a good sport. It also shows that you are willing to spend time with them and are proud no matter the status of their victory.
4. Be sure that your child feels your unconditional love and support and work on a healthy self esteem. If your child knows he is loved and appreciated, no matter the grade on a test, he will be able to feel confident that the love you have for him is not contingent upon his performance. When working with your child's self-esteem, remember that the "real world" demands people who are confident, honest and fair. Giving your child everything that she wants allowing her to have her way all of the time, etc. will not prepare her for the school of hard knocks. A healthy self concept begins with the knowledge that one has mastered himself and has earned everything he has. Giving a surety of unconditional parental love and the self discipline to meet life's challenges and one's own limitations will serve your child her entire life.