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  • Published: 25 August 2016
  • ISBN: 9781473546493
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 320

The Gardener and the Carpenter

What the New Science of Child Development Tells Us About the Relationship Between Parents and Children

One of the world's leading child psychologists shatters the modern myth of 'good parenting'.

Selected as a Book of the Year by the Financial Times
The Gardener and the Carpenter should be required reading for anyone who is, or is thinking of becoming a parent’ Financial Times

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 huge industry surrounding it have transformed childcare into obsessive, controlling, and goal-orientated labour intended to create a particular kind of child, and therefore a particular kind of adult.

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. The variability and flexibility of childhood lets them innovate, create, and survive in an unpredictable world. ‘Parenting’ won't make children learn – but caring parents let children learn by creating a secure, loving environment.

In The Gardener and the Carpenter, the pioneering developmental psychologist and philosopher Alison Gopnik argues that the familiar twenty-first-century picture of parenting is profoundly wrong – it's not just based on bad science, it's bad for children and their parents too.

  • Published: 25 August 2016
  • ISBN: 9781473546493
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 320

About the author

Alison Gopnik

Alison Gopnik is a professor of psychology and an affiliate professor of philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley. She is an internationally recognised leader in the study of children's learning and development. She writes the Mind and Matter column for the Wall Street Journal and is the author of The Philosophical Baby and co-author of The Scientist in the Crib. She has three sons and lives in Berkeley, California, with her husband, Alvy Ray Smith.

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Praise for The Gardener and the Carpenter

Immensely though-provoking account.

Caroline Sanderson, Bookseller

What a relief to find a book that takes a stand against the practice of "helicopter parenting" so prevalent today . . . [The Gardener and the Carpenter] 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 . . . This book will provide helpful inspiration for parents and may prompt some to rethink their strategies.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

The Gardener and the Carpenter should be required reading for anyone who is, or is thinking of becoming a parent ... Gopnik's science-based assertion is a welcome corrective to the prevailing culture of coaching and tutoring children

Isabel Berwick, Financial Times

[An] elegantly readable and thoughtful book… It should be required reading for anyone involved in educational reform.

Lara Feigel, Observer

[A] fascinating and passionate diatribe.

Bee Wilson, Guardian

It’s hard to think of a book that has more to say to our society… Read it. It will change your life.

WI Life

[A] thoughtful book… Gopnik shines when she describes the intricate world of children’s play… This is a lovely book, and the life’s work that animates it, will only deepen that bond, helping our children to flourish

Erika Christakis, Washington Post Sunday

[The Gardener and the Carpenter] calls into question the modern notion that good parents can mold their children into successful adults ... Gopnik writes with an approachable style and straightforward language ... Children are not supposed to become like their parents; they learn from them to create something new. Each generation is different from the ones before. And that, Gopnik suggests, is the whole point of being human.

Boston Globe

Deeply researched ... [Gopnik's] approach focuses on helping children to find their own way ... She describes a wide range of experiments showing that children learn less through 'conscious and deliberate teaching' than through watching, listening, and imitating.


Gopnik's book seems a welcome burst of common sense ... fascinating.

New Scientist

The Gardener and the Carpenter is warm, humane and perceptive.

Charlotte Moore, Spectator

Thought provoking

Claire Fox, Independent

Gopnik shows a particularly sensitive grasp of the unique dynamics of the intergenerational relationship of care between parents and children.

Jan Macvarish, Spiked