When a 6-year-old cheats at cards

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Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

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DEAR AMY: Recently I went to visit my grandchildren. I was playing a card game with "Mary," who is 6. It was a matching game called "Memory," and it became obvious quite quickly that she had arranged the cards in advance so she could win. I said to her, "Mary, did you arrange all these cards?" She admitted she had. I then said to her, "Well, then this is not a game. This is cheating, and I don't play with cheats." Amy, I have been reliving this little "drama" for several weeks, and I have asked other people about it. One very wise lady said she would have suggested playing another game of "Memory," with the cards truly shuffled. Others agreed with me that Mary should learn the lesson that cheaters never win. Was I too hard on a 6-year-old? Where do you come down on this?

--Concerned Grandma


DEAR CONCERNED: If you had handled this the way you should have, you would not be reliving the drama now because you would be confident that you had done the right thing.

Every 6-year-old cheats -- or thinks about it. Cheating is a particular specialty of this age group.

My theory is that they are both learning how games work and also exploring how they can manipulate cards, pieces and people.

I still have flashbacks to a fateful game of Candy Land where my pint-sized opponent cheated and I reacted basically as you did -- the grown-up equivalent of overturning the board and stomping away.

Childhood cheating presents the ultimate "teachable moment" for an adult. It is right to confront a cheater -- but after the confrontation you should display the maturity to demonstrate how much fun it is to play (and perhaps even win) honestly.

I agree with your friend who suggested keeping your cool and playing the game again, properly.