Welcome back to the Chess at Three Blog! This is part two of our “Drawbridge Story.” This “Drawbridge Story” is an essay from one of our co-founders, Tyler Schwartz, and it’s one of the first things we share with new Chess at Three tutors. It’s a powerful story about motivation and stories. If you missed last week’s blog you can find it here.
Protecting the Yarn
So how did I protect the precious yarn holding my fragile castle together? First, a kind teacher took me aside and explained to me the futility of telling children not to do something. There’s something about telling a person—any person, not just children—not to do something. The forbidden ‘thing’ suddenly becomes … alluring.
“Clean my car, but whatever you do … don’t look in the glove box, please,” is a sure-fire way to get your glove box opened.
The teacher who gently corrected me suggested that I invent a story that would give a compelling reason for the children to keep their hands at their sides. Giving the children reasons why they shouldn’t touch the yarn has exactly the opposite effect.
So when the next group of children approached “Chess Castle,” I didn’t mention the yarn, and I didn’t mention the fragility of the drawbridge. Instead, here’s what I said:
“Hello children, welcome to ‘Chess Castle,’” I said. “Because I have this castle, chess is a little bit different today. No children are allowed in “Chess Castle.”
The children all looked surprised and a bit disappointed.
“The only people allowed in ‘Chess Castle’ are soldiers,” I explained. “You know how I can tell if you’re a soldier? Soldiers always keep their arms straight to their sides—like this!”
I then snapped my arms to my sides, keeping them motionless as I marched across the bridge.
“Let me see if there are any soldiers in this group.”
I felt a rush of pride when, one by one, all the kids put their arms to their sides and marched right past the fragile yarn, never knowing that I didn’t want them to touch it.
The children weren’t exercising self-control—they were playing a role. The children were motivated to play the role of dutiful soldiers, and as a side effect of that motivation, they protected the ever-so-fragile yarn. The “Chess Soldiers” never even knew they weren’t supposed to touch the yarn.
The Drawbridge Story is a great reason why Chess at Three loves to tell stories! They’re very powerful when used in the right way! Do you want to hear more tips like this? Let us know in the comments below!