Chess Parents Behaving Badly
Chess Parents Behaving Badly
By Adisa Banjoko, Founder of the Hip-Hop Chess Federation
A few years ago, while at a chess tournament, I realized I had forgotten my camera. My son was making some pretty puzzling faces as he sat before the 64 squares in front of him. So like every parent would do I made a mad dash to my car.
On my way back from the car, I saw a father and son walking along the sidewalk. They were possibly Indian, I'm not sure. They were speaking in another language. The father, was reviewing his sons algebraic notation (the notes from his last chess match) and the son (about seven years old) walked nervously by his side. The father was pointing at different points of the board yelling louder, and louder. The son listened patiently, but I believe I saw a level of resentment in his light brown eyes. After a few more sharp tones hit his ears, he said something he had been holding back. I don't know what he said, it was in another language. It was probably along the lines of "Where's your chess champion trophy at?" or something to that degree.
His father lost it. Without hesitation he snatched his son by the arm and lifted him up, as if to strike him. The boy was swiftly lifted off the earth and made a cry out. The father looked around to see if anyone was watching. Our eyes locked. I shook my head slowly, stating "Don't touch him" with my eyes. He could see I was serious. He put his son down. They walked to a car and drove off.
Since that incident, I have seen many public displays of chess parents and psychologically abusive to their children. Let me repeat, to their children - over a chess match. Almost every time my wife and I attend major, and many minor tournaments we see parents doing unthinkable thing. My wife once saw a mother abandon her daughter in a hotel lobby because she lost. The mother stormed away with the notation in hand as her baby boy cried how sorry he was that he lost. I've seen a son walk back to a parent after losing a match clearly looking for a hug and a word of encouragement. Instead they get a cold word at best and a yanked arm as the parent rushes down the
If you know a parent who does these kinds of things, or, if you are that parent please understand: Your child is NOT their rating. Let's repeat that again. Your child, is NOT their rating. This is a game. A game that is supposed to be fun. A game that can teach them so much about themselves and the world. But not at the expense of their
dignity, and not at the expense of their joy.
Take a moment to find out if chess brings them joy. Do they like to compete? What do they love the most and the least about chess? Would they like to take a break from competition?
Another question for the parents: When was the last time you competed in a chess tournament? When was the last time you competed in anything physically or mentally exhausting?
So many chess parents are trying to live through their kids success. Before you yell at your kid for a blunder, go compete. Before you point out the flaws in your daughter's opening, go compete. Then show the kids your own mistakes. Explain your losses.
I promise it will help you both learn more compassion and increase your joy. To critique notation is the only way any of us can hope to get better. But the spirit in which we do it, is what makes the difference. Imagine after all the money you've spent on tutors. Think back to all the hours of play. All the gas, the hotels, the food
you've bought going from tournament to tournament. After all that, do you really want your kid to grow up and hate chess because of how you treated them? I know tons of adults who now hate the game, because their parents defined their entire identity on a ranking.
Parents, its time to grow up when it comes to how you act towards your
kids at chess tournaments. Its that simple.
Please feel free to respond to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org