Don't Pressure your Kids into Anything, Says Chess Talent Magnus Carlsen's Father
Honestly, it took us a long time to figure out that Magnus could be good at chess or be different from his sisters in any way at all. So the way we brought him up wasn’t different at all from the way we raised our other children.
That was the time when we realized that he was somewhat different from other children of his age. He must have been 8 or 9 at that time.
By the time, he turned 9 or nine-and-a-half, he started beating me at chess. So, looking at his drive from within, we thought maybe Magnus wants to play chess seriously. My wife, though, wasn’t much interested in chess initially.
He quit studies quite early in his life. Was it his decision? Did you agree with him when he did that? He must have been 16 by the time he decided to quit studies. Initially, we always encouraged him to pay attention to his studies as well. There were times when we would have to ask him to stop playing chess, skip tournaments and so on, so that he could finish his homework and cope with studies. But never the other way round.
Also, being a Norwegian helped. Because of the high standards of social security in Norway and other Scandinavian countries, children there are able to explore special things.
For somebody of Magnus’ IQ, he would have been good at many other things, not just chess. What do you think he could have become had he not taken a liking for chess? No, no, no… I don’t know about his IQ. I don’t know what he could have become had he not played chess. You should ask him what he wishes to be when he quits playing. So far, he has only played chess and has always focused on it.
Honestly, we never thought of Magnus as a prodigy and bringing him up wasn’t in any manner different from bringing up my other children. We treated him in the same way as the others in the family because, as I said, he never appeared to be different in any manner.
It was only when he started focusing on chess and we could see that he could switch himself off from everything else, did we realize that he turned out to be somewhat different from his sisters, or other children for that matter. Since then, he has only been doing what he loves to do: play chess. And we didn’t stop him from following his passion.
My advice to young parents is that they shouldn’t pressure their children into doing anything. They should allow the children to decide for themselves what they like. This can take time but if eventually a child can focus on something—like Magnus could focus on chess—allow him to pursue a career in what he enjoys doing.