Checkmate

Today, I want to teach you a lesson I learned in high school that has served me well while working with children.  It was a painful lesson at the time but one I’m glad I learned.

I went to St. Xavier High School in Louisville, KY.  St. X. It’s an all male school which is very competitive whether it is in academics or athletics.  Though we suffered from testosterone overload, it was a terrific place to receive an education.

One thing I really liked doing at St. X. before school was playing chess.  It was a great way to start the day.  I’ve joked before that I also joined the power lifting team at St. X. so no one would make fun of my love for chess.

The chess team was a group made up of players ranked 1-7.  The 1st board was a school’s best chess player and the 7th board was the lowest rated.  I was competitive but wasn’t quite good enough to be on the team so I settled for being in the club where anyone could play and learn.

One day, a member of the team came to me and said the 7th board player wasn’t able to attend a match and inquired as to whether I would take his place.  This was my chance and I wasn’t going to let it pass me by so I accepted.

As most chess players know, the games can take a long time and it takes a lot of concentration and patience to beat someone who is good.  I was a bit nervous when I started my game with a teenager from another school but I played well.  It was going to be a matter of time but I felt like I was going to win the game.

Our 1st board player had won his match and walked by my game to see how I was doing.  I remember looking at him and giving him a quick “thumbs up.”  It was right about that point when everything crumbled.

I made a series of bad moves and to make a long story short, I lost.  I was never invited to play on the team the rest of the year.

The lesson I learned from this story that I applied to parenting was to never settle or be satisfied.  I lost focus momentarily when I looked at my teammate and it cost me more than just a game.  Now, let’s fast forward to today.

One of my better parenting qualities is that I’m never satisfied.  I work really hard to continually build my children up from where ever they are.  It doesn’t matter if it’s academics, behavior, or sports.  I’m not a person who has to have my children be the best at everything.  Nevertheless, I remember the awful feeling of failure when I let down my guard.

One thing I’m cautious about is not pushing too hard.  Don’t get me wrong, I push my children consistently. But, I also keep mental notes to make sure what I am doing is appropriate and that they continue to be happy.  Keeping mental notes allows me to recognize situations when backing off is the best course of action.  There is a fine line between being consistent when you push a child and pushing too hard.

My general advice to all the parents reading this is to reflect and assess where your children are (academically, emotionally, athletically, etc) and determine how you are going to help them reach the next plateau.  In my opinion, you may lose some battles along the way but you’ll never be checkmated.  Best wishes!!!

My next post will be on Friday.  Thanks for reading and/or for passing this post around to other parents.  I really appreciate it.

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5 comments

  1. Crystal Lynn says:

    This is a very difficult area for me as a mom. I dont want to push too hard but I know I need to push. I dont want to raise my children to become adults who think they are better than others. I want them to do their own personal best, but I dont want them to look down on someone else who might not be "better" as a certain task. I tell my children that we all have different talents and skills.

  2. Nishana says:

    Hello,

    Stopping from VB.

  3. Cinnamon says:

    Clayton, thank you for stopping by my blog. I'm following back. Nice lesson.

  4. You are so right. If you oust too hard, it can make it worst then if you just let your children discover what they like and want! Great post!

  5. Typically my own rule of thumb for a team sport is that my son must be trying to make a contribution to the team. It's hard as a parent to know when to push and when to back off. It is a delicate balancing act for sure.