Q: I have a chess school for young kids (from 4 years old) and our great challenge is how to deal with their emotions and feelings related to winning and losing, i.e., how to face the results. Our principal goal is to improve thought habits through chess and pre-chess, but it is not easy when kids have to face competition. How can we improve our work in this way? (We are a professional chess player and a neurobiologist.)
A: This sounds like a wonderful way to help kids develop both their analytic skills and some key emotional intelligence abilities, like self-management. In helping kids manage their feelings about winning and losing, you might consider using some cognitive reframing — that is, redefining the situation in a better way for them. So you might talk about how many games you played at their age, and how even when you lost you learned valuable lessons that helped you win later. Or you might help them see every game as a chance to master specific moves or sequences of moves, and that the overall outcome is not that important at this point. In other words, tell stories that help them care less about winning and losing these particular games, and make the process of learning more important.