Nipping Cheating in the Bud

Karen from Ohio, a fellow geek and mother, writes…

Hello, Father Geek!

I’ve been reading your web site for sometime now and love what you guys are doing. It’s great to read topics that are about my two most favorite things in the world: my little geek and games! Like ice cream and sprinkles!

I’m a single mom and my one and only little geek, Amanda (age 8), loves playing games with me but I have caught her a number of times blatently cheating. At first, I thought she was just getting the rules wrong or forgot how the game was played. But I started to notice that her “mistakes” were becoming more and more sneaky. Sneaky to a point where I knew she was cheating on purpose and the “mistakes” were anything but.

This puts me (and any parent) in an interesting position, don’t you agree? On the one hand, it is super easy to simply call her on it and say “don’t do that”. Maybe even stop the game and tell her that old adage that “cheaters never win”. But I am not sold on this approach as it doesn’t address the real issue: why she is cheating in the first place. This is a game for goodness sake! Win or loose, everyone still gets dinner and keeps their fingers. I’ve taken to not only calling her on it but discussing why she is cheating in the first place.

Her truthful answer broke my heart: “I want you to be proud of me, Mommy.”

Well, I hugged her right then and there and told her that I would always be proud of her and that games were meant to be played and enjoyed, not necessarily won. She still cheats from time to time, and I call her on it and tell her that I think she’s playing well and doesn’t need to cheat. It’s something we (as a team) are working through and I see nothing but goodness ahead.

I’m sure you guys have caught your kids cheating and would like to know how you handled it with your little geeks.

Keep up the great work and play on!

Great question, Karen, and thanks for reading!

Sounds like you are doing everything right. Calling attention to the incorrect behavior, discussing it with your little geek, and then helping them with positive reinforcement to better themselves and their actions. We’re no experts, but we’d gladly go so far as to say you sound like a Super Geek Mom!

I have caught my little geeks cheating in the past and I do all I can to put a stop to it immediately. In my opinion, cheating is like lying. It is dishonest and misleading. No one wants to play games or even socialize with someone who cannot be trusted. I also do all I can to help my little geeks recognize that a short-term gain does not provide a long-term benefit. If they cheat, they might win the game, but they might lose a chance to play the game again as the other players will avoid playing with them in the future. Really, it’s all about good sportsmanship, respect for others, and holding yourself accountable for your actions. These are hard lessons to teach and even adults are confronted with opportunities to cheat. For example, being given too much change back or a restaurant check that is missing an ordered food item. I wonder how many of us would return the change or flag down a waiter to have the bill corrected?

I try my very hardest to lead by example, but I am as fallible as the next person and fall prey to the same traps as everyone else. When I do, I try to make it a learning experience and share it with my little geeks, if I think it appropriate. I can’t be perfect, but I can certainly do my very best to be a good person.

I believe that good behavior and proper living begins at the home. Kids learn by example and follow the paths set by their parents. They might veer off occasionally or even decide a completely different lifestyle when they leave the home, but they will always have the bedrock established by their parents: unconditional love, respect for themselves, respect for others, and being responsible for their own actions.

I asked the other Father Geek staff to weigh in, too. With three of us offering up some advice, the odds of something being useful in this article improve dramatically!

Evan, Brian, and ChaseBrian’s thoughts...

My sons are both still too young (3 & 4) to actively cheat. Cheating in our family comes either in the form of an accident or in wading through the basics of playing with simple self-imposed rules. I am sure others can identify with this one. My oldest son actually has the reverse symptom. He does not want me to lose and feel bad, so when he is winning he tries to get me to catch up on Candy Land. The compromise I have settled on here is that we’ll keep playing until everybody gets to Candy Castle. That being said, when cheating does happen, even if by accident, I think you, Karen, handled it perfectly. Find the reason and redirect it to the primary goal, which is having a good family experience where there just happens to be one person who can win.

Karl’s thoughts…
I went ahead and asked Kyan (age 7) why he cheats. I simply got “cause I want to win!”. I followed up with asking him if the win felt better knowing that he really beat me, if he beat me simply by cheating, or by me letting him win (which is about the same result). Luckily, I got the response I wanted and that was that he would like winning knowing that he really beat me. I, in turn, said that I agreed and that I would be much prouder of him winning without cheating because (a) he is showing honesty and (b) he was a really good opponent.

I would suggest a similar tact in this case.. I think at age 8, she can make some real ground here. I cannot say the same with my daughter Erika, age 5. Besides, she is much more protocol driven and “by the book”.. cheating WON’T happen when she plays! She makes sure of it!

There you have it, Karen. We hope we have helped and shed some light on how we have handled cheating with our little geeks. Again, we couldn’t agree more that you are doing everything right!

Parenting is a journey with ups and downs. No one said parenting would be easy. Then again, no one told me how rewarding it was, either!

Best of luck to you and Amanda! Roll high and duck low, ladies!

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About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner. Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....

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