My Daughter is a Big Fat Cheater.


by Stefanie Wilder-Taylor


My five-year-old daughter is a poor sport. She cheats at Trouble, Hi Ho Cherry-O, Chutes and Ladders, Go Fish and basically every game we play. I don’t know if cheating is the right word, well, yeah, it actually is. She likes to change the rules in the middle of the game to suit her needs. Did the spinner land on the bird that eats two cherries from her bucket in Hi Ho Cherry-O? Well, better spin again –that one was on the line. Did she land on the top of a chute that would take her back a bunch of spaces in Chutes and Ladders? Oh that chute is broken. Does she have any sixes? Sorry, those aren’t sixes they’re fours. Go Fish.


We’ve all heard the phrase “it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game” right? In the case of my five-year-old it’s has very little to do with how you play the game and everything to do with winning. Case in point: last night Elby wanted to play one game with me before stories (a famous stall tactic). I agreed to Candy Land which I find to be relatively painless and less egregious than Pretty Pretty Princess, the game we usually play if I don’t pass out from boredom just from anticipating that snoozefest. So Candy Land gets set up and Elby rustles through the cards looking for the ice cream cone –the card that should you draw it, would take your plastic gingerbread man all the way toward the end of the candy path and it would then be poised to win the game in approximately five more turns. Yeah, she’s pulled this little move before.


Normally, she sneaks and puts the card on the top of the pile, tells me she’s going first and then feigns shock and delight that she’s pulled the ice cream cone card. “Mommy! Look! It’s the ice cream cone! Can you believe it?”


“Wow, Elby. That truly is a surprise.” I usually say. But that’s when I think “She’s totally cheating.” And then I wonder if I should allow it, if it’s normal, if it’s healthy but mostly does she seriously think she’s fooling me? As if I didn’t see her put the card on top? She didn’t even try to distract me! My daughter is very talented in many areas but close-up magic is not one of them. I’d tell her to keep her day job if she had one.


So, Elby works her sorcery, pulls the cone card and zips her piece toward the finish line. “I’m going to win! Look! The ice cream cone space is almost at the end! I’m going to win!” she gloats while doing a little pre-win dance. I decide to point out something that was sort of obvious to me but I wondered if it had occurred to her. “Elby, you will get to win the game. But, on the other hand, the game will be over really really fast and then it will be time for stories.”


“But on the other hand, you will lose” she says, looking at me like I’m new to this planet.


“True. I guess you really like to win.”



As a reformed cheater of Candyland, (I did the EXACT same thing whenever I played against my little brother, only the the card would be the second from the top cause he insisted he had to be first. and since I was cheating, I figured he can be first) I somehow grew up to be not really all that competitive and still able to loose with grace and still pick up a dollar and hand it to the person who dropped it. So mrsncook, its not like you did anything special parenting wise, you just got blessed with kids with good character.


Thank you kmoore for the note on developmental readiness to accept losing. I hadn't realized that might be an issue and it's great to keep in mind. I've actually been surprised in playing certain games with my older daughter. She's 5 now and we used to let her win all the games, throwing games if necessary to allow her to come out ahead. Then I realized that it might be important to teach her that losing is ok too. So my husband and I started playing fairly and as strategically as we would against anyone else. Imagine my surprise when she beat me at Uno fair and square, with quite the well executed strategy! I think by letting her win, I was actually just patronizing her and not letting her show me what she could really do. It was a very fun revelation.


As the kmoore said, it is common behavior at that age and she will grow out of it with your continued efforts. I'm also a mother of 3 girls, youngest now 7, and all 3 went through a few years of being terribly poor sports about not winning at games but have matured into more pleasant players over time.


Thanks Kmoore, that's pretty much what I thought. I certainly don't think we should expect our five-year-olds to act like little adults. Let them be kids I say. They will understand concepts like losing, getting fired and recession many years from now I hope.


I'm a preschool teacher as well as a mom, and the fact is that children aren't developmentally ready to lose with grace until they are 9 or so. You can do all the preaching and lecturing you want, but they just don't have the wherewithall. I like to play noncompetitive, cooperative games (there are a lot of good ones available) in which the players work together to solve a problem or reach a goal. The bonus is that a lot of these are much more interesting than Candyland and Pretty Pretty Princess, too. Don't worry, when your daughter is old enough, she won't feel a need to cheat any more.


BRAVO squeakere! I couldn't have said it any better!


Wow. I never expected to see such a "holier than thou" response to what seemed to me to be a lighthearted story about picking battles - one that I got a good chuckle out of. I think everyone here would agree that we all want our kids to play by the rules, and that cheating is wrong. But I have to think, mrsncook, that you could have conveyed that sentiment in a less sanctimonious, judgmental way. For some reason, your comment struck me the same way that most such sanctimonious, holier-than-thou comments from other mothers strike me - as petty attempts to publicly confirm that you are a better mother than any other mother out there, simply because you do something differently. It's just wonderful that everyone thinks your little girls are such angels! Thank you for sharing! OBVIOUSLY it's because you are such an outstanding human being and mother. But does your success in raising angels dropped from heaven itself necessarily make you a better mother or role model than SWT, or any other mother out there? I suspect you think it does, and your snotty remarks which only subtly lay claim to the mantle of superior motherhood have shown that while a person might get one thing right (i.e. teaching her daughters to be gracious losers), she can simultaneously get another thing tragically wrong. Let me ask this: how do you plan to teach your girls not to act better than everyone else if their mother is so busy doing the same?


"...we are working on teaching her the importance of trying hard but playing fair, losing with a smile, and winning with grace. "

I say, "Keep up the good work!" While it's not easy when they're younger, it does eventually catch on. My girls are now 12, 11, 10 years old, and they are usually very good winners/losers. If they win, they might jump up and holler for a minute out of excitement, but they don't overdo it. They turn to the loser and congratulate them on a game well played, and tell them something positive like "better luck next time" or whatever. The loser might pout for a minute, because it is tough to lose and we're all very competitive, but they congratulate the winner and say something positive like, "Good game! Congratulations!" It really makes me proud of them that they're such good winners/losers.

I sometimes see other children who talk trash the entire time, "I can beat you! I'm going to wipe the floor with you!..." and when they lose they get mad/lie, "I didn't lose! This one is my character, not that one!" It really takes the fun out of the game when someone is a poor loser/winner and makes us not want to play with them again. It may be tough now to teach your child those lessons, but I personally think it's a lesson well learned that will make them (and everyone!) much happier in the long run. JMO


I think it's absolutely horrible to let a child think it's okay to cheat. The reasoning that it's okay with an adult make me wonder if they're going to use that logic in life like, "It's okay that I took the candy off of the adult, but I would *never* take it off of another child!" Or in a more severe case, let's say, "It's okay if I cheat the worker out of $50, but I would *never* cheat an elderly person!" Where do you draw the line? I think allowing a child to cheat, for any reason, allows bad behavior where they will find loopholes for cheating people. And we all know how good children can be at making us feel guilty when we try to enforce the rules. ;) lol How about, "Oh Officer! I wasn't speeding! I was only going 5 miles above the speed limit! bats eyes)

We have never played like that with our three girls, and as a result it's a game we ALL enjoy. Sometimes the girls win, sometimes I win. There are some games one person always wins, but that just makes the loser try harder next time. My girls have a strong sense of right and wrong, do not tolerate unfairness, and are some of the best behaved children you see. I get a lot of compliments on their behavior, because they think of others and try to be helpful. For example, if a person drops money, they don't reason it's just a penny or nickle; my girls pick it up and give it right back. I'm very proud of them. I'm also proud of how they play games, and sometimes I'm the one who asks them if they want to play, because it's something we all enjoy when no one cheats.


I too am the mother of a cheating, win-at-all-cost daughter. My 6 year old (youngest of 3) has always been the most competitive of our children. When it comes to board games, she has always been extremely lucky, and if luck isn't on her side, well, she cheats. By 4, she new how to "stack the deck" at candyland, and all too often the board gets "accidently" tipped over. Although her need to win appears to be with family only, and not friends, we are working on teaching her the importance of trying hard but playing fair, losing with a smile, and winning with grace.