RICHARD ORD: Parents are either Gardeners or Carpenters – which are you?

Alison Gopnik
Alison Gopnik

What kind of parent are you?

Development psychologist Alison Gopnik reckons we parents fall into two groups, we’re either Gardeners or we’re Carpenters.

And the best parents she reckons are the Gardeners.

Which is a pity, because I was convinced I fell into the Carpenter school of child-rearing.

There’s certainly many an occasion when I’ve been tempted to reach for the hammer when our two boys have gone off on one ... nailing large crooked planks across their bedroom doors to keep them at bay.

The US psychology professor says the Carpenter parent decides early how they think their child will turn out and then tries to fashion them into that person.

A bit like how a carpenter follows a set of rules to build a chair.

The Gardener treats their child like a plant and develops a stimulating environment in which it can grow and develop. My gardening skills leave a lot to be desired.

I managed to destroy half of our back lawn over the last few weeks. Spotting a load of weeds in amongst the grass, I grabbed a bottle of weedkiller and wandered about spraying the offenders.

Here’s a top tip for garden supply companies. How about clearer labelling on your bottles? Weedkiller is a fine name, but Weed and Lawn Killer would be more accurate.

And don’t give me that: “You should always read the instructions carefully” shiz.

I am no carpenter or gardener, instead I am a product of the Ikea generation. We don’t do reading instructions until after it all goes wrong.

I apply the same rules to parenting.

Alison Gopnik has other ideas, the main one being trying to get parents to part with £20 to buy her book on how to bring up the perfect child.

Certainly in our house we’ve fallen for a few Gopniks in our time. We have back bedroom filled to the rafters with parenting guides.

My particular favourite was the Child Genius video, which my wife bought and subjected our Isaac to in his formative years.

It featured stirring classical music and undulating colours and shapes drifting across the screen. The blurb on the packaging suggested the sounds and images would stimulate the child’s mind and senses to produce a boy genius.

It didn’t work in the short term. It may have worked in the long term, but our Isaac pulled all the tape out of the video and tried to eat it when our back was turned. Maybe he’ll turn out to be genius. The man who invented edible video tape! Who knows.

My advice to any parent looking for a book or video to create a child genius is don’t do it, unless it has been written, produced, and directed by a four-year-old child genius. And looking at Alison Gopnik, I’m not convinced she has found the answers. There’s only one phrase that springs to mind when I look at her picture: “Should have gone to Specsavers.”