Parents and Chess

Paul J. Mulqueen, Ph.D.

This is the first in a series of short articles designed to help parents better understand what chess can do for their child.  These articles will not teach chess.  The focus is on understanding what your child will experience should they become “hooked” on chess.

Today, children have many activities at their disposal. Why then should they choose chess?  There are two reasons.  The first is that it is “training for life”.  The second is that it is fun sport, which will last them a lifetime.  You can enjoy a game of chess at any age, physical ability, and country in the world.  Unlike video games, chess does not go out of style.

For parents, the primary reason for encouraging their children to play chess is that it is “training for life”.  Only a few players expect and are able to make a living at chess.  Chess comes with no dreams of being the next sports millionaire. What it does come with is the opportunity to become more successful in life.

Chess encourages students not just to think but to begin to examine how they think.  Losing provides immediate feedback which they can use to ask themselves where they went wrong.  In chess there are winners and losers.  There is no luck and no participation trophies.  Chess provides a way for students to learn the lessons that only competition can teach, without the physical injuries.

Winning reinforces that learning pays.  The student naturally takes the next step of asking how I learn.  There are numerous chess resources, but which ones work for your child.  As a parent, this is your opportunity to help them become aware that they are responsible for learning how they best learn.  Students are not aware that in order to be competitive they need to become lifetime learners.  Chess is a great vehicle for parents to begin the discussion of how much the world has changed and will continue to change.  Those students who begin to take responsibility for their own learning have an enormous advantage over those whose approach to school is “study, regurgitate, and forget”.

Chess is a good way to develop social skills.  There is a whole chess community that promotes sportsmanship and fellowship.  Chess students will interact with not just their peers but also middle age and retired adults.  They have a chance to talk with role models who succeeded in all walks of life.  The chess community includes doctors, lawyers, scientists, engineers, officers, and fortune 500 executives, etc.  This can be particularly helpful for those bright but introverted children who struggle with the social graces.

The next article will be on understanding the chess tournaments and the rating system.