Cheating is any form of behaviour the function of which is to deliberately break a rule by misleading, deceiving, or acting dishonestly to gain an advantage (Green, 2004).

Specialist Behaviour Support Services and Speech Pathology

Teacher catches two children exchanging notes in the classroom

Defining cheating behaviour

Cheating is any form of behaviour the function of which is to deliberately break a rule by misleading, deceiving, or acting dishonestly to gain an advantage (Green, 2004).

Cheating behaviour as part of normal development

Cheating frequently occurs in childhood (Ding et. al, 2014). As part of normal development cheating behaviour begins during preschool years (Lewis et al., 1989; Talwar & Lee, 2002) and continues to develop with age (Callender et al, 2010; Evans et al., 2011; Kochanska & Murray, 2000) but after 8 years of age there is a developmental decrease in cheating behaviour.

As children mature and as part of moral development, children realise that cheating is wrong and learn how to comply with rules without supervision.

Cheating behaviour of concern

When cheating behaviour is prolonged and ongoing, it becomes of concern. 

Impact of cheating behaviour

Cheating can cause negative consequences for the child, the family, and the community at large. When children cheat it can leave others feeling hurt, angry or frustrated, but worst of all, it will make it difficult for others to trust the child.

Consequences for the child include others losing trust in the child, lost relationships, lost opportunities, loss of respect, facing serious consequences, a record of the cheating incident on their transcripts, and most importantly cheating does not address the underlying reasons why the child is cheating or equip the child with the tools to be successful the next time they have to engage in a similar situation.


Peter will often move an inch or two away from the start line to get an advantage because of his fear of coming last, especially to some of his peers. Peter has started cheating not just in running games but in other sports as well. In tennis, calling an opponent’s ball “out” when it was in, especially if he is the only one that can properly see what happened; or he may purposefully trip or crash into other players in soccer. The other children have noticed this and under their breath will call him ‘cheater’, not choose him or want him to play in their team, and even when he is doing the right thing the other children will complain about him to the sports teacher.

Hence, cheating behaviour affects everyone involved and the child who is exhibiting cheating behaviour requires necessary help to learn positive ways of behaving and managing their emotions

Positive behaviour support resources for cheating behaviour

Positive Behaviour Support (PBS) focuses on evidence-based strategies and person-centred supports that address the needs of the individual and the underlying causes of behaviours of concern, to enhance the quality of life for both the individual and those that support them.

PBS recognises that there is no single cause for cheating behaviour. It is a complex behaviour that is a product of the interaction between multiple factors contributing to its development and persistence.

Cheating behaviour is like the tip of the iceberg so it is essential to look beneath the surface to work out the why before we can address the problem. Behaviour Help resources are at hand:

C for Cheating - Forms cover image

Download this free PDF guide

The forms contained in this pdf booklet are from the C for Cheating: Positive Behaviour Support guide that can be used as part of the process of developing a PBS plan.

Download C for Cheating - Forms