What is Parent Gardening?

 “To parent” is a goal directed verb; it describes a job, a kind of work. The goal is to somehow turn your child into a better happier or more successful adult – better than they would be otherwise, or (though we whisper this) better than the children next door …”parenting” means something parents should do.

…this prescriptive parenting picture is fundamentally misguided, from a scientific, philosophical, and political point of view… It’s the wrong way to understand how parents and children think and act, and it’s equally wrong as a vision of how they should think and act. It’s actually made life worse for children and parents, not better.

We need to go beyond thinking about whether a particular parenting technique will have good or bad outcomes. … we should not only recognize that being a parent – caring for children — is a relationship, but recognize that it is a relationship like no other.

In the parenting model, being a parent is to be a kind of carpenter. … pay attention to the kind of material you are working with … [and] essentially your job is to shape that material into a final product that will fit the scheme you had in mind to begin with.

Caring for children is like tending a garden, and being a parent is like being a gardener.

[As gardeners] … our job as parents is not to make a particular kind of child. Instead, our job is to provide a protected space of love, safety and stability in which children of many unpredictable kinds can flourish. Our job is not to shape our children’s minds; it’s to let those minds explore all the possibilities that the world allows. Our job is not to tell children how to play; it is to give them the toys and pick up the toys again after the kids are done. We can’t make children learn, but we can let them learn.

Alison Gopnik; from the introduction to What the New Science of Child Development Tells Us About the Relationship Between Parents and Children: The Gardener and the Carpenter (2016).

Vision: Bright Futures for Children and Parents

The goal of the Bright Futures for Children and Parents program is to engage with, support and encourage all parents, but especially new parents, as they make their own developmental transitions to being parents and to help them figure out how they can accomplish this positively and in ways that will help them to confidently participate in and optimize their infant’s developmental journey into and through childhood. 

MIke Boyes, PhD and CHANCES

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