My Cheatin’ Kid

Dear Mr. Dad: My six-year-old son has suddenly begun cheating at games, at school, in sports—pretty much every chance he gets. This has come out of the blue. I can’t help feeling it’s a moral issue. How can I nip it in the bud?

A: If you hadn’t told me your son’s age, I’d have guessed it within a year or so. The good news is that he’s right on schedule for the little social experiment he’s conducting.

A very powerful thing happens in child development right around age six. Developmental psychologists call it Theory of Mind—the point when kids begin to truly grasp that other people experience the world from their own unique perspective, and that they don’t always know what’s going on in other people’s heads. Before that, kids have a kind of “universal mind” idea, believing that everyone sees and experiences things in the same way and shares the same knowledge.
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