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Chess Provides An Invaluable Opportunity To Teach Life Lessons

posted by DNA Identifiers @ 12:46 PM
Wednesday, November 10, 2010

By Alvaro Castillo

It was only to be expected that I would play chess with my children. Before I became a father chess was a big part of my life. My father and brother taught me to play when I was only 5. Since then, I’ve played with friends, family members, and even strangers (I lost, badly).

I now play chess with my daughters. I taught my oldest, when she was 6, and she has already beaten me once. My 5 year old, started learning when she was 3. When the baby, is older, she and I will also play chess. The reasons are simple: 1) I did it as a boy, 2) it’s cheap, 3) it stimulates the imagination, and 4) it’s an elegant hedge against TV or video games.

While the temptation might be to hunker down and watch a movie or TV, I push for chess it is my way of resisting TV. Last year, I was given Dr. Meg Meeker’s book Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters. This book cautions fathers on the rancidity of the culture that awaits girls, and instructs on how fathers are uniquely positioned to help.  This holds true for all parents.

My 6 year old is now 8 and she faces questions that I don’t recall being discussed when I was here age. As a father I try to find strategies to help her blossom, without hitting her over the head with it.

Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters, doesn’t mention chess per se, makes two important points. First: A girl needs Dad time. She needs to bond with Dad, to know he is there for her, and to be assured of his love for her. When life gets hard (not if but when) she can go to him and she knows he will listen. Today’s bond helps both father and daughter move though tomorrow’s problems.

Second: Protect her from herself. Wise decision making also called maturity is the final thing that develops in the mind. Teens can rationalize anything for fun. They have the ability to wreak adult havoc but lack the maturity to consider consequences.

When I grasped these two points, I looked at my stalwart friend and ally in parenting, chess. It turns out chess is the perfect companion for raising children. Chess rewards long-term strategy, stimulates the executive decision part of the mind (precisely what Dr. Meeker says develops last), it also helps build a bond.

I’m not the only one to think chess can be a wonderful tool in raising children. Leopold Lacrimosa is a Scottsdale, Arizona chess coach who also runs the American Chess Coaching website. He stated, on the ChessCentral site, that a child who takes up chess “begins to develop logical thinking, critical thinking, decision making, [and] problem solving.” Again all the things that Dr. Meeker says develop last.  In addtions To Lacirmosea Dr. Peter Dauvergne, a professor at the University of British Columbia, Canada, wrote an article for the University of Sydney entitled “The Case for Chess as a Tool to Develop Our Children’s Minds.”

In fact, a casual internet search using the terms “chess children development” yields well more than a million hits.

Chess serves as a means of bonding with my daughters, and as a way to show my daughters how to think long-term. It also provides a vital contrast to popular culture at large. Consider popular culture. Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan, for instance, are young women whose current life situations scream “didn’t think ahead.” And yet, it’s hard to blame the fallen divas, especially when you look at the messages they received from popular culture such as TV commercials. For example when Lindsay Lohan was younger than my 5 year old, there was a popular beer commercial explicitly told us not to think. “Why ask why?” Yeah, why think? Just do it.  Chess helps me protect my daughters from this kind of popular media.

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