What Kind Of Parent Are You: Carpenter Or Gardener?

Posted On: 5/29/2018 4:29 PM

A school child wearing a bright green hat decorated in colorful flowers, 'playing' a double-stem of flowers like a flute"There are two kinds of parents in modern America, says Alison Gopnik in her recent book, The Gardener and the Carpenter.

The "carpenter" thinks that his or her child can be molded. "The idea is that if you just do the right things, get the right skills, read the right books, you're going to be able to shape your child into a particular kind of adult," she says.

The "gardener," on the other hand, is less concerned about controlling who the child will become and instead provides a protected space to explore. The style is all about "creating a rich, nurturant but also variable, diverse, dynamic ecosystem."

Gopnik, a psychology and philosophy professor at the University of California, Berkeley, says that many parents are carpenters but they should really be cultivating that garden. She spent decades researching children's development and found that parents often focus too much on who their children will be as adults. The harm in that approach, she says, is that parents and their offspring may become anxious, tense or unhappy.

"We're so concerned about how these children are going to turn out that we're unwilling to give them the autonomy that they need to be able to take risks and go out and explore the world," she says.

Ironically, the less that mothers and fathers worry about outcomes, she says, the better their children may fare in life."

Read more at  NPR - May 28, 2018
Photo credit: Boulder Valley Waldorf School


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