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In The Gardener and the Carpenter, Alison Gopnik, one of the world's leading child psychologists, illuminates the paradoxes of parenthood from a scientific perspective and shatters the myth of "good parenting".
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.
In The Gardener and the Carpenter, the pioneering developmental psychologist and philosopher Alison Gopnik argues that the familiar twenty-first-century picture of parents and children is profoundly wrong—it’s not just based on bad science, it’s bad for kids and parents, too.
Drawing on the study of human evolution and her own cutting-edge scientific research into how children learn, Gopnik shows that although caring for children is profoundly important, it is not a matter of shaping them to turn out a particular way. Children are designed to be messy and unpredictable, playful and imaginative—and to be very different both from their parents and from each other.
What a relief to find a book that takes a stand against the practice of "helicopter parenting" so prevalent today. Developmental psychologist Gopnik (The Philosophical Baby) provides comfort for parents who want their children to experience a free-form childhood where they can spread their wings and grow up into well-rounded, responsible adults. Her book not only dispels the myth of a single best model for good parenting but also backs up its proposals with real-life examples and research studies. Gopnik argues that the modern notion of parenting as a kind of avocation or career is "fundamentally misguided, from a scientific, philosophical, and political point of view, as well as a personal one." Employing the two titular professions as metaphors for opposing approaches to parenting, she maintains that parents should not try to shape their children like a carpenter, but rather provide them with room to grow, like a gardener, into creative thinkers and problem solvers. "Being a parent is simply about loving children," Gopnik states, except that "love is never simple." This book will provide helpful inspiration for parents and may prompt some to rethink their strategies. An extensive bibliography of further recommended reading is included.