Kindred’s Special: Chess and Kids

One of the primary responsibilities of parents is to provide a loving home life for their children. There is no question that kids have enormous burdens handed them. In addition to regular subjects, students are bombarded with a host of social issues, school sports, class field trips, and class projects to supplement their homework. Parents expect help with chores and to keep their rooms neat while taking time to talk with them about issues and personal questions they want to discuss with either or both parents. Often parents work and have to balance home life with driving their kids and friends to after school activities, preparing meals, and to structure growth in their beliefs and religious training. It is easy to become frustrated with kids and scold with comments like: “Why don’t you do as well as your brother or sister?” forgetting that each child is a unique individual with different interests and capabilities. It is wiser to respect each for their good points and work on those where improvement can be made in a constructive manner. Sounds pretty commonplace!

So, where does chess enter the picture? In the past many children were not introduced to playing chess until they were in their teens. In fact, some did not learn to play until they were either working or attending college where some acquaintance needed a chess partner and taught them the basics of the game. Today we have kids who are taught from kindergarten on who find the game a lot of fun to play. A fairly good number work hard to improve their skill and learn about rating appreciation and wish to build upon it. Years ago boys were more interested in chess play but now many girls have found similar interest and challenge in playing due largely to the influence of school coaches, “Chess in the Schools” program and some excellent instruction books devoted to the younger player and computer chess programs aimed at sharpening their tactical eye.

Chess, like many games, enhance critical thinking skills and the attraction to chess by students has found a place in our social life. Chess literature has surpassed by far any other game. More important is the fact that it can be played almost in any setting. At times, when no chess set or board was available, players would create a makeshift board and set out of miscellaneous materials. This was true especially in prison camps during war time.

Perhaps the greatest value is found in the development of critical thinking skills complimenting those physical sports that add to muscular health. Parents who encourage their children to enjoy chess play and participate in school physical sport, music and other artistic programs that interest them lead their kids in scholastic enjoyments and memories that remain with them through life.

School years are a time to grow, to learn, to explore, to develop good study habits, responsibility and respect for and of peers, teachers, others and family members.

While I have provided herein the assets of chess learning, there are those who believe that chess as a war game is taboo and dangerous because it teaches children to be aggressive, point to playing for stakes, stimulating a competitive nature and this smacks in the face of the social elite who embrace the idea for strict social equality. Trophies anyone? There is no winner or loser? Everyone is equal. Everyone gets a prize just for entering.

I believe that children are not stupid. I believe they recognize that integrity, of honoring success has a place apart from the so called social tinkerers. I will tell them here that yes, chess is discriminatory because no two kids think or act alike or are in fact exactly the same. That is the joy of this world of chess. Every child, no matter his background, can achieve to the level of his or her best because in the final analysis, no one can play the positions, the game you are part of but yourself. Win, lose, or draw may make coaches, teachers, teams praise or wince at your result but that is in the end what chess is. Those who have the desire, who work to improve, are blessed with an ever growing appreciation for the game. And let no one tell you differently.  Remember that it is a game; so enjoy the competition and the time spent with friends.

One Response to “Kindred’s Special: Chess and Kids”

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