Chess is a game that most of us played while growing up, maybe occasionally during get-togethers with our friends or family, or even maybe trained professionally to become grandmasters and champions. Most of us think that chess can help with just becoming so and so. But it goes far beyond that. When we engage our children into any of the extra-curricular activities or sports, we often think of helping them start a career out of it, or even do it for the ease of job prospects. But all of this helps far and beyond just winning or becoming a world champion. Chess is a lot more than just aiming to become a grandmaster.
At whatever age or level your child starts to practice chess, just remember that chess helps in developing a number of skills which are required for everyday life. But it also depends on what we help them see and notice. It is also important to emphasize the other skill progress that your children make other than just winning or losing tournaments. Winning and losing are mere indicators and not the final destination. Even the greatest of great players may not win a few tournaments and that doesn’t make them a loser! So it is essential for us to be aware and enable our children to understand the essence of chess beyond the paradigm of winning and losing, success and failure.
1. While your child plays chess, or rather learns to play chess, they learn to assign roles and responsibilities to each piece on the chess board. They learn to adopt a flexible mindset rather than a rigid one. This enables them to view things in a very different manner – rather than restricting their views in a very generalized way. The chess board is a space where one gets to learn that each coin has some role to play even if it’s not the same. It’s essential to learn this for a reason that, in our everyday life, this is a crucial lesson to be imbibed. Learning to understand that everything and every person has some role to play – big or small. Chess teaches children to be mentally agile and open to new ways of looking at things.
2. Every move on the chess board is important ! Chess teaches children to play securely. It gives time for the player to think before making a move. It teaches them that thinking before every move is essential. This molds the child to think through before making a decision or taking an important step in their lives. There are always two ways of looking at time constraints in chess – one as a pressure, two as a pause before making a move.The scenarios and the knowledge to handle those is essential for converting this decision making into a pleasurable one rather than a pressurizing one. Chess is one game that allows us to learn a very important skill called decision making.
3. On a similar note, time keeping also teaches us that dealing with the steel nerves is very important to make better decisions. If we have the time to think before making a move on the board, if we are filled with anxiety or fear, then the move we make also becomes a consequence of that emotion, which may not really be the best choice. We make defensive decisions. Dealing with emotions is vital in the game. Implementing this in everyday life can prove beneficial. Decision making especially during critical moments is a crucial part of everyone’s life. Chess can really allow your child to understand that.
4. In chess, it’s about the balance of taking one move at a time and yet predicting other possible outcomes before making one. It is a balance between taking it one at a time and strategizing the sequence. Generally, we resort to finding ourselves in extremities in these kinds of situations in everyday life. But Chess teaches children to balance and do what is needed to do at that moment.
5. There are times when we make mistakes on the board – probably miscalculated moves. Most children might feel a sense of guilt or regret and may be self-critical of themselves. This will put them in a never-ending trap of guilt and mistakes. Instead, if they want to move, they eventually have to find a way to take on the small error that has occurred, learn from it and move on to the next move. Else the mistakes can recur many times that they believe that they are a failure. This is such an important skill to develop – accept, take responsibility for and move, rather than self-criticizing and staying in the same never ending loop of guilt.
Apart from these important mental agility skills that your child can develop, they can also learn to manage their time better during the day. Usually when the child has just studying to do, they get bored easily or may happen to lose focus and interest. But when they have something else, like chess, it enables them to learn to manage their time and other resources better. This skill of time and energy management is once again a skill to be developed for life. Beyond a child aiming to win tournaments, this one basic skill that most people aren’t great at or aware of can be learnt.
Chess stimulates your child’s mind. It helps your child to think differently, look at things from different perspectives. Learning this skill early in one’s life is important. This skill also needs to be backed by knowing what the child’s key strengths and weaknesses are or even what his/her playing style may be. This helps your child understand their individuality but also understand, be aware and also respect other perspectives. This creates that pathway to being more empathetic and still having one’s own standpoints.
Of course, chess also teaches your child to be more disciplined. For example, they learn to pack their bags and get ready for their class. Or maybe when they fail once in their exam or don’t do well, they learn that they have to put in the effort every single day – thereby learning responsibility, discipline and consistency.
There are many other factors that can be learned as well. But as parents, you would have to believe that chess is more than just becoming a Grandmaster and help them learn this side of chess as well.