Alison Gopnik's Book, The Gardener and the Carpenter

Why You Should Be a Gardener Parent

Why You Should Be a Gardener Parent

In her new book The Gardener and the Carpenter, developmental psychologist Alison Gopnik wrote the anti-parenting manual. “The point of this book is not to be another manual for parents with different or better advice,” says Alison Gopnik, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley.

When it comes to parenting, Gopnik, an internationally recognized leader in the study of children’s learning and development, thinks parents should ignore the current multibillion dollar parenting industry that pressures parents to obsess and groom kids into a particular kind of child.

In The Gardener and the Carpenter, Gopnik argues that parents should aim to be more like gardeners that create an ecosystem for flowers to grow organically versus trying to mold children like a carpenter building a house.

Children are inherently unpredictable, messy, playful, and creative beings. The carpenter model of parenting doesn’t give kids room to be messy and learn on their own terms.

Gopnik explains, “The carpenter model of parenting makes it a miserable life for parents and children. Parents are full of guilt and their kids are going to have issues.”

The gardener model focuses more on parents providing a safe, stable, and caring environment for kids to learn, take risks, and explore. “As a gardener, you can’t shape a flower to come out a particular way; everything is organic and comes out different than expected,” explains Gopnik. “You try to create an ecosystem with different strengths and weaknesses, and even if the weather or seasons change, your garden continues to flower.” Being a gardener parent takes a similar approach.

Drawing on evolutionary biology and cutting-edge scientific research into how children learn, Gopnik’s book dives into the tricky nature of caregiving. She cites research and compelling evidence on how children learn, and dares parents to not be didactic teachers.

This holiday season pick up Gopnik’s book to read up on the latest and most innovative research on how kids learn. And then make a New Year’s resolution to be a gardener parent, not a carpenter parent.



About the Contributor
Jennifer Moncayo-Hida was formerly the Senior Communications Manager at the Bay Area Discovery Museum.