I've lost count as to how many times I've played Uno with preschoolers and young primary aged children only to find part-way through the game they either change the rules or cheat and deny they did so. And don't even get me started on how this plays out in the playground during a game of handball or soccer (I can sense the shudders from teachers reading this!).
Of course, this is all so they increase their chances of winning - because winning feels good. We're taught this from a very early age by our loved ones and society. Sadly, for some children and adults, they attach winning to their identity like superglue. They only believe they're a good person and that others will 'like' them if and when they win.
Why is this happening?
Well, first of all, it's important to know cheating and lying to win is very common for neurotypical* children between 4-10 years of age. The human brain is not fully developed until the early to mid 20's so preschool and primary aged children have a loooooong way to go. The younger the child, the less likely they are to be able to put themselves in someone else's shoes. They don't have the consistent capacity to consider how the person they are playing with might feel about them being creative with the rules. Furthermore, they don't fully care either. I don't intend to be mean here, but empathy is something that their brain is not fully able to do consistently yet. It's going to take growth and lots of role-modelling from loved ones to help develop this.
As parents, carers and educators, we can use our sense of curiosity to think about other reasons why the child might be cheating when playing. For example, did they witness big sister yesterday being given a special treat when she won something? Or perhaps they saw another child get teased in the playground for being a 'loser' when missing a goal?
* Neurotypical = children those whose brains are developing as expected for a child who has no known health, medical or trauma experiences. I'm not a fan of the word 'normal'.
So, how can I help my child?
Below are a few ideas for you to experiment with. Of course you'll need to tweak them to match the age and development of your child. Children who are neurodiverse may also benefit from these strategies. Consistency and calmness from adults is the key. It's much easier for children to adopt new behaviours that they have the opportunity to practice and that are delivered in a way that is easy to hear.
Need some extra support?
Natural Growth Childhood Counselling provides support for children and adults in the beautiful outdoors around Camden, SW Sydney.
I also run workshops for parents at preschools.
Contact me now,
Phone: 0468 853 749