Why do we cheat? Part 1: General Overview

(Disclaimer: This is not absolute. It’s simply an observation, from the point of view of an amateur.)

What makes even the noblest of men think of cheating? Why do politicians decide to cheat their way to a seat in office? Why do Financial Investors decide to cheat their clients to a couple of bucks? Why do students decide to cheat in an assignment, a seatwork, or ultimately, an exam? Why do we cheat?

We cheat because of our desire. Our desire to be accepted in our personal “societies”. For politicians, they might belong to a society of power and position. So they desire to be in a position where they could gain a greater power of influence. For financial investors, they’d probably belong to a society of extravagance and net worth. They’re more likely to desire wealth in any way possible. For students, they’d want to belong to a society of appreciation. Most of us could probably relate with the feeling of the students. We simply want to be appreciated and accepted for what we are.

Let me ask the question again. Why do we cheat? We cheat because we’re afraid to fail…we fear failure. We were programmed to fear failure. As kids, we were programmed to be afraid of failing. Failing to follow instructions, orders, or expectations.

The usual reaction we get from parents when we do something wrong is a scolding. And the usual reaction they get from the kids was a blank stare. “In one ear, out the other.” Let me give you two examples.

Example 1:

John accidentally drops a plate while washing. His mom could start yelling at him. Or she could explain to John how to wash the plates properly and tell him how she appreciates him helping her out.

Example 2:

Jane gets 90 in Arts, 92 in Music, 80 in Science, and 75 in Math. Her dad could scold Jane for not studying, being lazy, or (worst of all) being too dumb. Or he could congratulate her on the high grades she had and talk about what they could do to help Jane with the “harder” subjects.

Two main difference for both examples: 1) Reaction & 2) Focus/Emphasis.

How parents and others within the environment react to these situations can provide a lasting impact on the behavior of the kids, positively or negatively.  According to Sean Covey, in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens (which I highly recommend reading), we could either be reactive or proactive. The first reaction, on both examples, was reactive. They simply reacted to a stimuli (dropping a plate, getting low grades) without processing the situation. Acting without Thinking. This behavior would likely influence the kids to become more impulsive and violent.  The second reaction was proactive in a way that the situation was analyzed first before there was an action. Thinking before Acting. The kids are more likely to become more cautious and tact.

The focus/emphasis of any situation is equally important. We either could focus on the negatives or the positives.

The first focus, again for both examples, is on the negative (John drops the plate, and Jane gets low scores in Math and Science). Putting emphasis on the negative actions teach kids to be too pessimistic. John is more likely to grow up fearing dropping plates because he associates it with the negative feeling of being scolded. Jane is likely to fear getting low grades because she associates it with the negative feeling of being unappreciated and lacking. They would grow up trying their best not to screw things up for fear of correction or rejection.

The second focus is on the positive (John helps in washing the plate, and Jane getting high grades in Arts and Music). Putting emphasis on the positive actions teach kids to be optimistic. John might like to help out around the house more because he knows his mother appreciates him helping out. Jane might also do better in Science and Math, and probably even better in Arts and Music because she knows she can do it and she’s good at it. They would grow up trying his/her best to do things right and what is right simply because they know it is right and it is best for them.

Let’s go back again to the question: Why do we cheat? Because we focus too much on the “not screwing up” instead of “knowing and doing what’s right”. Not screwing up focuses on the fear of failure. Doing what’s right, on the other hand, focuses on the possibility of success, and even appreciation.

Instead of teaching kids that they should fear failure, let’s teach them that they should appreciate and embrace success. How? By focusing on resolving problems instead of emphasizing the problems. After appreciating and praising them for the good they’ve done, ask them “I noticed this, can we talk about it? what do you think can we do in order to resolve it? what can I do to help? Remember to empower the kids by including them in the resolution and not just you imposing on them on what the solution should be.

<Please feel free to provide your insights, comments, or suggestions…or email me if there’s anything you’d like to ask me… :) >

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