When It Comes To Parenting, Are You a Carpenter or a Gardener?

Rather than set annual goals each year, I’ve transitioned to more of a quarterly assessment. The motivation? It’s just easier to track and remember.

Annual goals get lost in the hustle and bustle of the year. But, when I’m working with just three months, I can better keep on top of what I’m trying to hone or accomplish.

One of my recent goals was to try out some new podcasts, particularly ones that would help me to shape my parenting philosophy and give me tools to become the best mom I can be.

As a mom of four, I often struggle with how differently my children need me. Apparently, once upon a time, I thought parenting would be a one size fits all when it comes to little ones. Jokes on me! These days I’m finding that I need to be four different moms – one for each of my kids.

In my parenting podcast search I stumbled across this: The Carpenter Vs. The Gardener: Two Models of Parenting. It was recommended by a friend, and that is always the best way to discover gold in the podcast world 🙂

So, as your friend, here I am to say, give this podcast episode a listen. Then, share it with your partner and a few of your friends too.

The Carpenter vs. The Gardener is part of NPR’s Hidden Brain #howtoraiseahuman series and during the 30 minute episode you hear from guest Alison Gopnik, a psychology and philosophy professor at UC Berkeley. She is also the author of The Gardener and the Carpenter which unpacks an alternative way to think about the relationship between parents and children. The podcast and book are recapped succinctly like this:

Caring deeply about our children is part of what makes us human. Yet the thing we call “parenting” is a surprisingly new invention. In the past thirty years, the concept of parenting and the multibillion-dollar industry surrounding it have transformed child care into obsessive, controlling, and goal-oriented labor intended to create a particular kind of child and therefore a particular kind of adult.

Bottom line, Gopnik’s research says that although caring for and nurturing our children is essential, it cannot be coupled with a goal to shape them to turn out one specific way. That means, mom might work as an accountant and be a lover of numbers, but her daughter might shun all things quantitative and embrace messy and creative art.

And that is ok. Being different, even from our immediate family, is ok. And, as parents, it’s ultimately up to us to encourage our children to seek out their individualized passions rather than shape them to embrace our own.

That, is the concept of being a carpenter or a gardener. That is the question we have to ask ourselves. When it comes to my children, am I being a carpenter who tries to whittle my children into a “chair” when all they want to be and are better skilled to be a “rocking horse”? Or, am I following gardening practices where I facilitate an environment for them to grow and mature into who they are meant to be? Have I provided a “trellis” for my children who need to defy gravity? Do I offer enough “water”? Is the “soil” rich enough with the ingredients tailored just for them?

This podcast episode went live in December 2017, I didn’t listen until June 2018. Since, I’ve revisited it multiple times and now, Gopnik’s book is on my library waitlist. I want to be a gardener! Don’t you? To do that, I know I need to continue to study and practice the art of “gardening”. Join me?