What are effective discipline techniques for cheating?

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Answered by: Nicole, An Expert in the Behavior of Children Category
Children will lie at some point (okay, let's be honest, at many points) in life, and children will cheat as well. Whether on a test or in a game, there are several motivations behind this type of behavior, aside from deceit. In the classroom, cheating may result from test anxiety or external pressure from teachers and/or parents, as well as internal pressure to succeed. When it comes to games outside of school, the desire to win is just part of life. This is true for both children and adults. If you think about it, you have the same needs as an adult, with the same temptation to get the desired result by any means necessary. We have learned to control those urges, because we know honesty and integrity are good character traits, and success through cheating isn't quite as satisfying as working for it. As parents, it is important to teach children the value of both hard work and telling the truth.

So if this behavior is perfectly normal, do children need to be punished for it at all, and if so what are effective discipline techniques for cheating? There are a few key techniques that have proven effective in children from preschool through adolescence. These can be easily applied to cheating behavior in and out of the classroom.

1. Positive reinforcement. As stated earlier, bad decisions are part of growing up, so belittling is never an effective discipline technique. Focusing on good behavior, not just negative, is a surefire way to promote positive behavior in children. This is especially true when children lie and/or cheat to get attention. Take a moment to ask yourself if you verbally recognize your child's positive behavior on a regular basis. If you don't get many opportunities to do this, make them. One idea is to introduce family game night. Besides getting positive attention during family time, kids will have many opportunities to demonstrate honesty in the face of temptation through play, and you should point out their fairness.

2. Clear, consistent consequences. Although it's not a major behavioral concern, there should be consequences for dishonesty, since we want to help children develop truthfulness as a positive character trait. So, what are appropriate consequences?

To be an effective discipline strategy, consequences should be predictable and action based. Your child should know what the consequence for cheating will be, and that consequence should give them the opportunity to take corrective action. For example, they must apologize to the person they lied to by cheating (for example, their teacher, if it was a school incident) and then complete the assignment or task again.

3. Address the motivation behind the behavior. If it is an ongoing behavior, there may be anxiety about the activity. If Its a school subject, spend extra time on that subject, or perhaps hire a private tutor to provide practice outside of school. Also consider introducing some stress management techniques. Meditation and visualization are very effective in reducing anxiety, especially in children. If time and money are limited, remember that stress reduction alone can have dramatic effects on performance and behavior.

Conversations about acceptance and success can help reveal your child's reasons for other types of cheating among friends and family.

4. Incorporate "family values" into your home. Limit these to four or five character traits you feel are most important. Integrity, or honesty, can be one of them. Communicate to your child(ren) the types of behaviors that demonstrate each trait (and which do not). Having a core list of values allows you to remind your child why this particular behavior is not valued in your family.

Remember, to be effective discipline techniques must be consistent. It is important to follow through with any strategies you choose to try, in order to see positive results.

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