Studies show that there are two types of parents. In her recent book, “The Gardener and the Carpenter”, Alison Gopnik (2016) says that those are the parenting trends she identifies in modern America. Can we say the same of parents in Ghana?
Before then, let’s establish traits of a “Carpenter” parent and then that of a “Gardener” parent. A sum of what Gopnik says is that a “carpenter” thinks that his or her child can be “moulded” into what they desire. She goes on to add that, “The idea is that if you just do the right things, get the right skills, read the right books, you’re going to be able to shape your child into a particular kind of adult,”.
The “Gardener,” parent on the other hand is not interested in controlling the growth of the child. He or she provides room and space to explore and become whatever they want. This style is mainly about “creating a rich, nurturant but also variable, diverse, dynamic ecosystem.”
Gopnik, who is a professor of Philosophy and Psychology has spent a good number of years researching children’s development and has come out with the finding that parents who act as “carpenters” end up anxious, tense and unhappy because of the disappointment they usually face but more importantly the children turn out not having/knowing the skills that enables one to take risks and explore skills, make mistakes and correct them. This according to the researcher, is worrying. Ironically, to her, the less parents worry about the outcomes of their children the better they do in life.
After reading this book, one wonders whether this hypothesis is true of the modern American parents alone or it is a hypothesis that can apply to the Ghanaian parent. And more importantly, whether the conclusion that parents who act as carpenters end up more disappointed than those who practice “gardening”.
Parenting is difficult and it gets more confusing when you read researches of this sort. There are a lot of successful Ghanaian adults who attest to the guidance of their parents as one of the main reasons for their successes. Certain important skills of life are imbibed in them through various ways- some students are forced to learn while others are taught the importance of it while being insistent. Notwithstanding, some children are unsuccessful regardless of the carpentering parenting they passed through.
There are some gardener parents in the society too whose children are exceptionally successful even though they were not moulded through life strictly. Again, from crime reports of Ghana, many of the unacceptable behaviours recorded are from children or adults who had liberal parents, no parents or refused to take the counsel of their carpenter or gardener parents, explored various skills and got stuck with bad ones.
Having been offered both scenarios and some consequences associated with them, a parent will consciously have to pick a parenting style with their child in mind; what works for one parent may not work for another because different children are being dealt with. Know your child. Pay attention to the traits they show from as early as 8 months. If it is a wrong one, stop it firmly. If it is an acceptable one, encourage it. Do not wait till they are 2 years and more to start disciplining them. It is as important as what you feed them with; feed them right and they will grow right and force them to puke the wrong ones, again, so they grow right.