Some Tips on Chess Parenting

Having been a chess parent for eight years as well as a GM and coach, I thought I would offer a few tips on chess parenting. Despite my extensive background in the game itself I have been learning ‘on the job’ to a large extent. Richard James’s insights were very useful, certainly at the start, and I learned more by experience and watching other parents in action, both doing things well and making mistakes.

The first thing to understand is that when your kid becomes interested in chess then basically it’s their show. As I see it a parent’s job is to be quietly supportive in celebrating wins, commiserating with defeats and avoiding lectures or reprimands. It might be that you need to look after their interests now and then if you think they are being unfairly treated. But in this case you also need to listen to your child’s view on the situation.

The second big thing to consider is that becoming a good player and getting the most benefit from involvement with the game takes time and effort. A lot of it. In this our eight year I will be taking my son Sam to around 20 tournaments. He also works on chess at home, probably putting in around 8-10 hours a week on average. This is normal for anyone who takes up a musical instrument but many chess kids tend to do much less than that. As a result they may struggle to go from junior chess to fulfilling their potential, or even getting established in the adult game.

Number three is that they need coaching, and probably a lot of it unless they are autodidacts who can learn on their own. This is why so many of the young players who come through have a chess playing parent who can do the coaching ‘in house’, at least up to a certain level. For parents who can not play chess, or at least not well, they can try to organize enough homework for their kids to develop, or perhaps learn together with them. But I will not hide the fact that it is tough for parents who do not play, and they will need a lot of research and motivation to provide appropriate support.

Number four is that you should look for a genuine involvement with the chess scene rather than be day trippers. Parents who seem to be more successful often involve themselves with organization, providing transport to other players and making friends with those in the chess community. This is then rewarded at many different levels, not least of which is the fact that your kids will find it easier to make friends themselves.

There are other tips too but these are the four main ones that come to mind. Here meanwhile is an interview with a couple of tennis parents, Mr. and Mrs. Federer, who seem to be a perfect model:

Nigel Davies

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About NigelD

Nigel Davies is an International Chess Grandmaster living in St. Helens in the UK. The winner of 15 international tournaments he is also a former British U21 and British Open Quickplay Champion and has represented both England and Wales on several occasions. These days Nigel teaches chess through his chess training web site, Tiger Chess, which has articles, recommendations, a monthly clinic, videos and courses. His students include his 15 year old son Sam who is making rapid progress with his game. Besides teaching chess, Nigel is a registered tai chi and qigong instructor and runs several weekly classes.