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The Gardener and the Carpenter

What the New Science of Child Development Tells Us About the Relationship Between Parents and Children
Narrated by: Erin Bennett
Length: 8 hrs and 51 mins
4 out of 5 stars (218 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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 30 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, pioneering developmental psychologist and philosopher Alison Gopnik argues that the familiar 21st-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 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 secure, loving environments.

©2016 Alison Gopnik (P)2016 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Narrator Erin Bennett commendably presents this unique audiobook on raising children. Alison Gopnik, an expert on children's development, lambasts the current style of parenting, which she calls the 'carpenter method' because it relies on an established blueprint (as in making a chair) to produce a successful but predictable child who also excels at test taking. Gopnik prefers the 'gardener approach,' which gives the child love, encouragement, and freedom to play and imagine, which she says results in a more creativity. Bennett's delivery of Gopnik's passionate argument is appealing and easy to understand. She also captures Gopnik's subtle humor and supporting quotes from experts. The moving conclusion comes full circle as it discusses end-of-life commitments that adult children have to their elderly parents." ( AudioFile Magazine)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Stop Parenting and Be a Parent

Would you listen to The Gardener and the Carpenter again? Why?

Yes - the book makes a strong case for being a parent to your children rather than parenting them toward your own specific end. It's definitely a message to hear and appreciate more than once.

Who was your favorite character and why?

The author talks about her experience as a grandmother throughout the book, which is a nice backdrop to the scientific understanding of the parent-child relationship.

What does Erin Bennett bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Erin conveys some of the coy remarks well - I'm not sure they would have stood out as clearly in the text.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

I like this book in snippets - listening all in one sitting wouldn't do it justice.

Any additional comments?

Alison Gopnik is quoted so frequently in other books. It was nice to hear her voice directly - she has a wisdom about her work that other authors miss entirely.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Great book about modern parenting misconceptions

Really great book that takes you through historical and traditional child rearing ideals to modern day misunderstandings. It was an enlightening read on how childrens' brains develop and how wrong our traditional ideas of this are. It's a very short book but touches on many examples and interesting view points. It had a good flow but not many action points to take away, except that I feel I need to read more about the subject!

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Too much blathering

Bought this one for a road trip, needed something my wife and I could listen to while driving. It was less about raising kids and more about the social and evolutionary development of parents and families (lots of examples about primates). This was not what we were looking for. I don't care why crows care for their young longer than other birds, I want to know how to get my son to stop whacking his sister with toy cars. We probably will not finish this one.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Fascinating

Best book in the genre I've "read". Fascinating and entertaining from start to finish. I highly rec

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Equal parts science and wisdom

The best chapter is the last one, in which Alison Gopnik weaves together the science of child development with philosophy and policy making.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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An important work

Any additional comments?

This is the best book on child development I have seen. Much of what is practice today is based on faulty assumptions and this includes the experts who are working from disproved models that are 50 years old.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Always love Gopnik. This book was right up there.

At some level this book felt so much more personal. I have always loved the author's "reporting" on the latest discoveries. So, coming across a book where she opens up her soul, so to speak, was welcomed & refreshing! it was nice to hear that even a grandparent research scientist is ..... still a grandparent. This was a most enjoyable read.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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very theoretical

nothing too practical and the topics in each chapter were discussed too long. I did not find myself engaged.

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wonderful insight to children

this book had some wonderful insight into children. it helped me understand my own children, how they're growing and learning and because I now have a better understanding I can be a better parent.

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sometimes too repetitive

I really liked the perspective it gives to parenting and being a parent but sometimes the story got a little repetitive. it was a good book though.

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  • Bianca
  • 06-18-18

Well read but not the content you might think...

The narration is clear but the content is very theoretical with no practical guidance or advice. I was hoping for some ideas for the application of what the author has gleaned from all her experience and research. If I had expected to listen to this as an exploration of current theories and the reasons for them, I might have enjoyed it more. It was quite dense, though, and as I was listening out for what I can do or expect as a new parent, I found it quite slow-going (and disappointing). I am still in search of a more practically useful book on how babies and children develop and how I can offer the best of me to support my children.

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  • Megan
  • 12-31-17

One of the best books I have listened too

Whilst I agree with other reviews that the title doesn't sum up the book well, the book was much better than I had anticipated from the title! Tons of scientific information, from all areas of science e.g. genetics, behavioural, written in accessible language. Gopnik is not patronising and is critical of her own arguments - two qualities which made this book a very enjoyable listen. The topics are fascinating too, and cover arguments I have not read about elsewhere (and I have read alot on child development.) If I was to give the book a more suiting title it would be; an overview on the past present and future of childhood and child raising. Note: this is not a parenting book as such, rather a interesting viewpoint on childhood, which is nonetheless relevant and accessible to parents - just don't expect any solutions to your parenting worries!

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  • Afshin Iraninejad
  • 11-04-16

Poor story, well read

Although the title suggests telling us about scientific side of child and parent relationship and it does while annoyingly mixing facts with lots of personal individual experiences of the writer.
This book enchanted me when I read the introduction, when explaining about carpenter and gardner parents, difference of parenting and being a part, when she elegantly put pieces together why we have children in this age, in this world.
But the more I read, the less she explained the reason of having children and simply stoped after one simple fact that we have children because we love them. Almost entire book is about science of having baby and less and less carpenter and gardner parents.
I think the writer was lost from the very subject of book, from very enchanting, smart introduction through out the whole book.
It is a good book to realise new findings in science related to babies and how they grow up BUT extremely poor to make any original point about parenting and being a parent.

1 of 3 people found this review helpful