Children DO NOT cheat

Children DO NOT Cheat!

“He cheated…” a child came running up to me and said during one of our whole school play days. I always find this split second of them waiting for me to take action fascinating, so many questions go through my mind;

  • Why are they telling me this?
  • What do they expect me to do?
  • What are their thoughts on cheating?
  • Have they ever cheated?
  • Why are they worrying what other people are doing?
  • Did the child cheat? How?

And the final question I ask myself that opens the conversation with the children

“How can someone have cheated when no one has been given any rules to follow?”

This is what I said and the child’s reaction was priceless! 😉

“But, but, but…” with wide open eyes and mouth!

I repeated the question to them again and they suddenly begin to understand exactly what I mean.

During our whole school play days we PLAY GOLF, we do not play the GAME of golf.

Let me explain…

PLAY GOLF – here is the club, here is the ball, start at point A and keep striking the ball until it reaches point B. Play safely, sensibly and fairly – off you go and enjoy yourself.

PLAY the GAME of GOLF – as above with rules, formats, scoring and ever changing environments.

This view has been influenced by Peter Gray and his fascinating book “Free to Learn”

What is PLAY?Lessons from Informal Games
Play is self chosen & self directed
Play is motivated by means more than ends
Play is guided by mental rules
Play is imaginative
Play is conducted in an alert, active, but non-stressed frame of mind  
To keep the game going, you have to keep everyone happy
Rules are modifiable and player-generated
Conflicts are settled by argument, negotiation and compromise
There is no real difference between your team and the opposing team
Playing well and having fun really are more important than winning  
Peter GrayFree to Learn 2013

So therefore during the first part of a child’s journey into golf, when they are playing for love and enjoyment there is no way they can cheat. That is unless an adult is involved!!!

We add rules, formats of play and scoring so therefore it is often the framework that we impose on children that will lead to them cheating. I am not saying that this is a bad thing but when adding to a child’s experience I feel we (the adults) need to be VERY careful that it doesn’t lead to them losing enjoyment and engagement.

Picture the scene… you are at crazy golf with a 2 year old and you put the ball down at the beginning of the hole and they instantly pick it up, walk to the end and place the ball within 1 inch of hole, then kick, push, prod, putt the ball into the cup. This ALWAYS happens and adults then try to explain to the child that that is wrong and show them the correct way. In the child’s mind they have understood the task presented to them (get the ball in the hole) and then found the best way they know how to do it! Perfect J

What could the adult do differently? Instead of telling them what to do and/or standing over the top of them to show them how to hit it. Just play and model the way to do it, over time (I have no idea how long this will take!!! But the one thing children have is LOTS of time) the child will figure out and play in different ways.

Cheat. Cheater. Cheating. Are all words that are often seen as negative but what if we looked at them in a different way? What about if we saw it as children being creative, imaginative, risk takers, independent thinkers – a “thinking outside the box” mindset. This suddenly makes me thinking of children “cheating” in a very different way!!! Like the example above, the child has fully understood what is expected of them and done what they feel is best. Something to always remember if we want children to love playing golf;

It’s THEIR game, at THEIR level, in THEIR time, on THEIR terms.

The main focus when discussing this with children is linking it all back to our golden rules and values of playing safely, sensibly, fairly and doing our best.

When they do develop to playing the GAME of golf we want them play with honesty, integrity and honouring the values of the game. Link this with a mindset of individuality and creativity then they will love playing and will flourish.

So when children are starting out and PLAY GOLF they CAN’T cheat. And when they begin to PLAY the GAME of GOLF and it’s their game, played at their level, in their time and on their terms they WON’T cheat.  

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