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The Gardener and the Carpenter

Posted on 09-29-2016

A new book tries to find a balance between parenting too close—like a carpenter—and being too laissez-faire—like a gardener. The Gardener and the Carpenter by psychologist Alison Gropnik is a new one to figure out the dilemma.

She argues that we should back off from children a bit, that they’re wonderful little learning creatures on their own, playing and innovating and taking in information. “We can’t make children learn,” she says, “but we can let them learn.”

With our first child, sometimes it’s hard to let go and let her figure things out on her own. We want to do everything for her, protect her from everything, keep her close. It turns out that children, even eighteen-month-olds, says Gropnik, are remarkably sophisticated in their reasoning.

A carpenter approaches his tasks by building something from raw materials, hoping for some finished product he has constructed himself. A gardener, however, knows that the plants need a protected, nurturing space with room to grow on their own. The plants will turn out all right if you just give them enough water and nutrients.

All in all, it seems kids will make it. They’ll be okay. Remember when your parents told you to do something and you did the exact opposite thing—you turned out okay, too.

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