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The Orchid and the Dandelion: Why Some Children Struggle and How All Can Thrive

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From one of the world's foremost researchers and pioneers of pediatric health--a book that offers hope and a pathway to success for parents, teachers, psychologists, psychiatrists, and child development experts coping with "difficult" children, fully exploring the author's revolutionary discovery about childhood development, parenting, and the key to helping all children f From one of the world's foremost researchers and pioneers of pediatric health--a book that offers hope and a pathway to success for parents, teachers, psychologists, psychiatrists, and child development experts coping with "difficult" children, fully exploring the author's revolutionary discovery about childhood development, parenting, and the key to helping all children find happiness and success. "Based on groundbreaking research that has the power to change the lives of countless children--and the adults who love them." --Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts .      In Tom Boyce's extraordinary new book, he explores the "dandelion" child (hardy, resilient, healthy), able to survive and flourish under most circumstances, and the "orchid" child (sensitive, susceptible, fragile), who, given the right support, can thrive as much as, if not more than, other children.      Boyce writes of his pathfinding research as a developmental pediatrician working with troubled children in child-development research for almost four decades, and explores his major discovery that reveals how genetic make-up and environment shape behavior. He writes that certain variant genes can increase a person's susceptibility to depression, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and antisocial, sociopathic, or violent behaviors. But rather than seeing this "risk" gene as a liability, Boyce, through his daring research, has recast the way we think of human frailty, and has shown that while these "bad" genes can create problems, they can also, in the right setting and the right environment, result in producing children who not only do better than before but far exceed their peers. Orchid children, Boyce makes clear, are not failed dandelions; they are a different category of child, with special sensitivities and strengths, and need to be nurtured and taught in special ways. And in The Orchid and the Dandelion, Boyce shows us how to understand these children for their unique sensibilities, their considerable challenges, their remarkable gifts.


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From one of the world's foremost researchers and pioneers of pediatric health--a book that offers hope and a pathway to success for parents, teachers, psychologists, psychiatrists, and child development experts coping with "difficult" children, fully exploring the author's revolutionary discovery about childhood development, parenting, and the key to helping all children f From one of the world's foremost researchers and pioneers of pediatric health--a book that offers hope and a pathway to success for parents, teachers, psychologists, psychiatrists, and child development experts coping with "difficult" children, fully exploring the author's revolutionary discovery about childhood development, parenting, and the key to helping all children find happiness and success. "Based on groundbreaking research that has the power to change the lives of countless children--and the adults who love them." --Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts .      In Tom Boyce's extraordinary new book, he explores the "dandelion" child (hardy, resilient, healthy), able to survive and flourish under most circumstances, and the "orchid" child (sensitive, susceptible, fragile), who, given the right support, can thrive as much as, if not more than, other children.      Boyce writes of his pathfinding research as a developmental pediatrician working with troubled children in child-development research for almost four decades, and explores his major discovery that reveals how genetic make-up and environment shape behavior. He writes that certain variant genes can increase a person's susceptibility to depression, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and antisocial, sociopathic, or violent behaviors. But rather than seeing this "risk" gene as a liability, Boyce, through his daring research, has recast the way we think of human frailty, and has shown that while these "bad" genes can create problems, they can also, in the right setting and the right environment, result in producing children who not only do better than before but far exceed their peers. Orchid children, Boyce makes clear, are not failed dandelions; they are a different category of child, with special sensitivities and strengths, and need to be nurtured and taught in special ways. And in The Orchid and the Dandelion, Boyce shows us how to understand these children for their unique sensibilities, their considerable challenges, their remarkable gifts.

30 review for The Orchid and the Dandelion: Why Some Children Struggle and How All Can Thrive

  1. 4 out of 5

    James Statham

    There is a good book in here trying to get out, but ultimately I found it disappointing. The Orchid (sensitive) / Dandelion (robust) analysis is an interesting one. I bought this book as I thought it might give me some insight into my own young children, one of who seems more sensitive to life's ups and downs than the other. Unfortunately, Boyce's book meanders around too much, giving long anecdotes about individual cases which were hard to relate to one's own experiences. At the end of it, ther There is a good book in here trying to get out, but ultimately I found it disappointing. The Orchid (sensitive) / Dandelion (robust) analysis is an interesting one. I bought this book as I thought it might give me some insight into my own young children, one of who seems more sensitive to life's ups and downs than the other. Unfortunately, Boyce's book meanders around too much, giving long anecdotes about individual cases which were hard to relate to one's own experiences. At the end of it, there was little practical advice on how to help the orchids in our lives and I was left unsure as to whether either of my children (or even me) would actually be characterised as an orchid.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lynda Austin

    Heard a review of this book on NPR and even just the title was intriguing to me. As an sometimes inept, but eager gardener, the premise of children as “dandelions” or “orchids” was a metaphor that made sense to me. Reading the book with its vast amount of data and research did not deter me from finishing it. Instead, it made me put the book down periodically and just reflect on my own upbringing, and that of my children and grandchildren, also my parents and their parents. As someone who interac Heard a review of this book on NPR and even just the title was intriguing to me. As an sometimes inept, but eager gardener, the premise of children as “dandelions” or “orchids” was a metaphor that made sense to me. Reading the book with its vast amount of data and research did not deter me from finishing it. Instead, it made me put the book down periodically and just reflect on my own upbringing, and that of my children and grandchildren, also my parents and their parents. As someone who interacts with kids as part of my job, this book made me also reflect on them and my effect on their future lives. The full title of the book is “The Orchid and the Dandelion - Why Some Children Struggle and How All Can Thrive”. Anyone who deals with children will find this book interesting - teachers, parents, grandparents, librarians, caregivers, doctors, nurses . . .

  3. 4 out of 5

    Naomi

    I listened to Maureen Corrigan interview pediatrician Thomas Boyce on NPR’s Fresh Air and was intrigued. In his new book, Boyce gives some reassurance and advice on how to parent “orchid children.” Boyce explores the “dandelion” child (hardy, resilient, healthy), able to survive and flourish under most circumstances, and the “orchid” child (sensitive, susceptible, fragile), who, given the right support, can thrive as much as, if not more than, other children. Truly, the same conditions that may I listened to Maureen Corrigan interview pediatrician Thomas Boyce on NPR’s Fresh Air and was intrigued. In his new book, Boyce gives some reassurance and advice on how to parent “orchid children.” Boyce explores the “dandelion” child (hardy, resilient, healthy), able to survive and flourish under most circumstances, and the “orchid” child (sensitive, susceptible, fragile), who, given the right support, can thrive as much as, if not more than, other children. Truly, the same conditions that may be good for one child won’t be ideal for another. Interestingly, he writes of the stress response on the Central Nervous System, exactly what led me to read The Out-of-Sync Child. Stressful experiences have a profound physical effect, which of course affects the mental state. There were many similarities in the science behind SPD and “orchid” children. Orchid kids are characterized by: 1) their sensitivity to the new and unexpected and their reliance on routine; 2) their special need of parental affection and time; 3) their perceptive read of acceptance and affirmation of the child’s true, tenderhearted, and creative self. Then there is the dichotomy that is frequently discussed at my house: “The families of orchid children must also seek and achieve a well-tempered balance between measured protection and emboldened exposure. On the one hand, because orchid kids are prone to an easily triggered physiological reactivity, a certain level of parental insulation from the world’s abundant challenges is often a needed and helpful protection. “On the other hand, the parenting of an orchid child must never be solely about protection and sheltering; parents must also know when to push, when to nudge, when to encourage a child’s venturing into unknown and even uncomfortable psychological or physical territory. For it is the successes in such terra incognita that will foster the child’s growth, revealing her capacity for mastering situations that seem at first impossible to abide. All parents of orchid children walk this fine, constantly shifting line between sheltering and provoking.” Is that not a blog post in itself??? Boyce writes from personal and professional experience on child developmental differences in such a way that I hope will cause others to become more sensitive to the needs of the orchid child. Boyce encourages the reader to focus on an orchid’s hidden strengths and uncommon sensibilities, thus helping them to blossom into their own resilience and possibilities.“ “Orchids are not broken dandelions but a different, more subtle kind of flower. Within the struggles and frailties of orchids lies an unimagined strength and redemptive beauty.”

  4. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    As a parent with a textbook orchid child I have felt the deepest dread and anxiety over how the world will accept him and the greatest frustration at trying to teach him basic survival skills (like rules of conversation or how to eat with a fork instead of your hands). This book was an uplifting and hopeful relief for me. I worry for my son who is so sensitive, easily overwhelmed, does things his own way, and is often misunderstood and a target for bullying. I found in this book a place to relin As a parent with a textbook orchid child I have felt the deepest dread and anxiety over how the world will accept him and the greatest frustration at trying to teach him basic survival skills (like rules of conversation or how to eat with a fork instead of your hands). This book was an uplifting and hopeful relief for me. I worry for my son who is so sensitive, easily overwhelmed, does things his own way, and is often misunderstood and a target for bullying. I found in this book a place to relinquish my fear for him and see that it is possible for him to overcome his challenges and I just have to love him and allow him to flourish. It was what I needed to read when I needed to read it. I know that a lot of reviewers complained that there’s no real practical advice in this book but that’s kind of what I loved about it. It reported the research and had the data to back up most claims but spent time sharing stories and examples rather than giving me checklists and dos and don’ts. The concepts were simple enough that I think anyone can apply on their own (love your kid, have healthy routines, support individuality, lean more toward positive parenting than negative, etc). This looks different for every parent and every child but the sometimes narrative tenor of the book made it enjoyable, relatable, and instructive for me. I admit that my mind tends toward the abstract and those who aren’t naturally conceptual thinkers might really miss the checklists like other parenting/self help books have. I certainly didn’t miss them and felt that “practical application” would have oversimplified and spoiled the principles presented. Not an organizational masterpiece and sometimes meandering but the writing was good enough that it didn’t bother me.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lena Rakhimova

    It is an interesting research and help to understand high-sensitive persons. Dandelion mostly are stress-resistant and deliver stable average results. Orchids though in good environment and conditions deliver the best results which are high above an average score. They bloom in good conditions as a result, but in a bad environment or under the difficulties(which are above an average) they respond quickly and feel all hidden social changes which affects their own health.  The main idea: it is for It is an interesting research and help to understand high-sensitive persons. Dandelion mostly are stress-resistant and deliver stable average results. Orchids though in good environment and conditions deliver the best results which are high above an average score. They bloom in good conditions as a result, but in a bad environment or under the difficulties(which are above an average) they respond quickly and feel all hidden social changes which affects their own health.  The main idea: it is for the best of humanity if orchids help dandelions to notice changes in the world and pay attention to it. While dandelions should help orchids to fight the stress of environment and society. Очень интересный взгляд на чувствительных людей, и как многое зависит от среды и стресса. В кратце, одуванчики всегда стрессоустойчивые и результаты всегда стабильно средние. Орхидеи в хороших условиях расцветают как и их результаты и не болеют, а вот в плохих условиях они быстрее всех реагируют на изменение среды, это и плохо и хорошо. Хорошо, потому что кто-то должен замечать изменения, а плохо это потому что это сказывается на их собственном здоровье. И основная идея, то что желательно чтобы, одуванчики помогали орхидеям в трудные времени, а орхидеи помогли одуванчикам заметить перемены в мире и обратить на это внимание.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Tim and Popie Stafford

    A thought-provoking book based on child-development research. About 20% of children can be categorized as orchids--with a sensitivity to their environment that can throw them into a catastrophic spin, but also with a sensitivity to nurture that can, under good conditions, unleash remarkable potential. Boyce comes through as a very thoughtful, compassionate doctor who thinks deeply about how to help children thrive. The categories of orchid and dandelion I found very provocative. Like all categor A thought-provoking book based on child-development research. About 20% of children can be categorized as orchids--with a sensitivity to their environment that can throw them into a catastrophic spin, but also with a sensitivity to nurture that can, under good conditions, unleash remarkable potential. Boyce comes through as a very thoughtful, compassionate doctor who thinks deeply about how to help children thrive. The categories of orchid and dandelion I found very provocative. Like all category systems they don't capture the nuances of life, nor do they seem to have a great deal of predictive value, but I found myself thinking about orchids I know and the nurture or lack of it they have been affected by.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Daphne

    This book was a tough one! It was filled with endless in-depth higher level medical jargon that I became bored with. Considered “a must read for all parents, teacher and psychologists,” I would beg to differ. I found some of Dr. Boyce’s studies fascinating, but hard to understand for a medically untrained mind. For these reasons, I do not recommend this book unless you are willing to put a lot of effort into understanding its content. I’m ready for something much lighter as my next book-my brain This book was a tough one! It was filled with endless in-depth higher level medical jargon that I became bored with. Considered “a must read for all parents, teacher and psychologists,” I would beg to differ. I found some of Dr. Boyce’s studies fascinating, but hard to understand for a medically untrained mind. For these reasons, I do not recommend this book unless you are willing to put a lot of effort into understanding its content. I’m ready for something much lighter as my next book-my brain hurts.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ari

    I have never suggested a book more. I'd highly suggest this to any teacher. I think it is one that every teacher needs to read. It is written so that the average person can understand it and this book helps one understand themselves as well as understand others. It has to be one if if not the best book I have ever read. It is definitely the best non-fiction book I have ever read. I haven't taken so many notes in a book. I have never suggested a book more. I'd highly suggest this to any teacher. I think it is one that every teacher needs to read. It is written so that the average person can understand it and this book helps one understand themselves as well as understand others. It has to be one if if not the best book I have ever read. It is definitely the best non-fiction book I have ever read. I haven't taken so many notes in a book.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Katy

    One part parenting book, one part crash course in epigenetics, fascinating throughout.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Agnes Roantree

    ⭐️ 3,0 stars ⭐️ I felt that it repeated itself and dragged out quite a bit, but I guess it was inevitable as the author tried to ease a lot of pain with this book and that's the form it took. Still, the book was somewhat informative and I will pay much closer attention to how I interact with children from now on. ⭐️ 3,0 stars ⭐️ I felt that it repeated itself and dragged out quite a bit, but I guess it was inevitable as the author tried to ease a lot of pain with this book and that's the form it took. Still, the book was somewhat informative and I will pay much closer attention to how I interact with children from now on.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    I didn't finish this, partially because I didn't feel drawn in by the central thesis, which struck me as pretty straightforward and maybe better presented in the format of an article. The anecdotes were amusing at times, though. I didn't finish this, partially because I didn't feel drawn in by the central thesis, which struck me as pretty straightforward and maybe better presented in the format of an article. The anecdotes were amusing at times, though.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Wright

    3.5 stars

  13. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    I couldn’t finish it. The physician writes in a haphazard way, and even as a physician I found the narrative hard to follow

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ann

    This was a fascinating read. If you are a teacher or a parent (especially one raising kids who seem particularly sensitive to their environment) I would recommend this book. Boyce, a pediatrician and researcher, explains that, while most kids are very resilient and able to cope with a less than ideal environment, others are highly sensitive. Those sensitive kids excel in healthy environments, but struggle disproportionately in difficult or stressful circumstances. He sites so many fascinating st This was a fascinating read. If you are a teacher or a parent (especially one raising kids who seem particularly sensitive to their environment) I would recommend this book. Boyce, a pediatrician and researcher, explains that, while most kids are very resilient and able to cope with a less than ideal environment, others are highly sensitive. Those sensitive kids excel in healthy environments, but struggle disproportionately in difficult or stressful circumstances. He sites so many fascinating studies that point to these differences. I love that he concludes that, while resilience is a great character trait, sensitivity can also strengthen kids in different ways. The only thing I found a little problematic was that this understanding of child development could lead to blaming parents when kids fail to thrive.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mark Dickson

    I really liked the interview with Boyce on NPR, but found the prose so over-the-top-florid that it felt unreadable at times. This book could have been a great read at half the length and with less storytelling/editorializing. As the parent of an orchid, and probably a dandelion, I found much of this helpful and hopeful, but at the same time there's a growing consensus that this is a false dichotomy, and there's more of a spectrum, with orchids and dandelions as the endpoints. I really liked the interview with Boyce on NPR, but found the prose so over-the-top-florid that it felt unreadable at times. This book could have been a great read at half the length and with less storytelling/editorializing. As the parent of an orchid, and probably a dandelion, I found much of this helpful and hopeful, but at the same time there's a growing consensus that this is a false dichotomy, and there's more of a spectrum, with orchids and dandelions as the endpoints.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I really learned a lot from this book. So many of the author’s personal experiences mirrored my own, and I enjoyed his many anecdotes about the grown children from his research in the 1980’s.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Dragon Tran

    Strong candidate for 3.5 stars. Doctor and UCSF professor W. Thomas Boyce overviews a fascinating pool of research, about how widely different individuals' experiences of the world can vary based on the (sometimes epigenetic or intergenerational) nature/nurture wiring of their internal stress response systems. From an array of vivid, touching narratives, with the author's own children and those he studied, he makes a compelling entreaty for sensitivity to uniqueness, through an awareness of the Strong candidate for 3.5 stars. Doctor and UCSF professor W. Thomas Boyce overviews a fascinating pool of research, about how widely different individuals' experiences of the world can vary based on the (sometimes epigenetic or intergenerational) nature/nurture wiring of their internal stress response systems. From an array of vivid, touching narratives, with the author's own children and those he studied, he makes a compelling entreaty for sensitivity to uniqueness, through an awareness of the full spectrum of socioemotional "porousness" in a typical group of children. Most children lie on the "dandelion" side of the spectrum, growing largely unaffected by surrounding conditions. One in five children, through the measurement of cortisol levels and fight/flight/freeze response, presents as an "orchid," or one with a nervous system acutely susceptible to environmental and experiential stressors. Boyce briefly discusses a few interesting branches of the topic, delving, for example, into how humans process trauma through expression, specifically how a young child used visual art--a single drawing--to process his experience of 9/11 and turn it into one in which the falling people were saved (by a fortuitous trampoline). Unfortunately, the author does not elaborate much on these post-traumatic coping mechanisms, preferring instead to accrue evidence of significant prenatal and childhood epigenetic transformation in humans and mammals. The point becomes over-proven, making the book slightly light on scientific intrigue for my taste. Nonetheless, his intimate accounts of the orchid and dandelion tendencies within his family bring a meaningful, humanizing element to his argument. The dissolution of the concepts of "vulnerable" and "resilient" children, in favor of understanding and nurturing both orchids and dandelions to thrive, can only lay the foundation for a garden which better cultivates a diversity of strengths.

  18. 5 out of 5

    John Chen

    W. Thomas Boyce does a profound job of teasing out the intricacies of this analogy in clinical research while humanizing these narratives of orchid children. We see that his sister is a major centerpiece in his discourse and he uses his own personal research and life experiences to paint a picture of children's individual needs. This book is a great overview on the phenomena of the highly-sensitive child (orchid children) and the more typical unperturbed child (dandelion children). Both in their W. Thomas Boyce does a profound job of teasing out the intricacies of this analogy in clinical research while humanizing these narratives of orchid children. We see that his sister is a major centerpiece in his discourse and he uses his own personal research and life experiences to paint a picture of children's individual needs. This book is a great overview on the phenomena of the highly-sensitive child (orchid children) and the more typical unperturbed child (dandelion children). Both in their developmental stages can incur lifelong traumas and illnesses, but it's apparent that orchid children assume most of these cases of life-debilitating diseases, mental health disparities, and emotional deficits. These personality types are merely metaphorical and social constructs use to explain this mysterious but seemingly real distinction between children. There's an underlying psychological and physiological phenomenon in these orchid children that branch over into giftedness, anxiety/depression, psychosis, along with other chronic health issues. As a researcher, brother, and parent, W. T. Boyce's writing is a wonderful combination of an academic witness, sensational romantic prose, and his struggles on this topic are balanced off with enduring faith. Quite an enjoyable and insightful read.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Zahida Zahoor

    A verbose and repetitive book that could be edited to a quarter of its length. The author makes a point that resilient children (dandelions) and less resilient children (orchids) are: the outcomes of a complicated mix of genetics, epigenetics, parenting-style, environment, poverty, past family history and any trauma that is encountered and how this all links to the child’s mental and physical health. The book gives basic tips on what to do if you have on orchid including giving them the opportun A verbose and repetitive book that could be edited to a quarter of its length. The author makes a point that resilient children (dandelions) and less resilient children (orchids) are: the outcomes of a complicated mix of genetics, epigenetics, parenting-style, environment, poverty, past family history and any trauma that is encountered and how this all links to the child’s mental and physical health. The book gives basic tips on what to do if you have on orchid including giving them the opportunity to express themselves, play, providing some level protection in stressful situations, love and assurance.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Marya

    The premise sounds interesting, and the reports on the data collection are definitely thought-provoking. There is a good book in here somewhere. I just can't get past the purple prose long enough to find it. The premise sounds interesting, and the reports on the data collection are definitely thought-provoking. There is a good book in here somewhere. I just can't get past the purple prose long enough to find it.

  21. 5 out of 5

    M. Lynes

    Really interesting opening few chapters but then it falls away badly. What it has to say is very worthwhile and interesting but the style is garbled. It moves from science to anecdote to advice in a meandering, confusing way. It’s insight is mixed with cliche and a sometimes patronising tone.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Nabeel Hassan

    The Orchid and the Dandelion by W Thomas Boyce review – which are you? Some people seem to have terrible childhoods and yet manage to thrive despite them. Others grow up in loving homes but suffer from mental and physical health difficulties, even if their siblings do not. Why? Research shows that about 15 to 20 % of children experience well over half of the recorded psychological illnesses. The remaining 75 to 80 % are comparatively healthy. This pattern continues into adulthood, and appears to b The Orchid and the Dandelion by W Thomas Boyce review – which are you? Some people seem to have terrible childhoods and yet manage to thrive despite them. Others grow up in loving homes but suffer from mental and physical health difficulties, even if their siblings do not. Why? Research shows that about 15 to 20 % of children experience well over half of the recorded psychological illnesses. The remaining 75 to 80 % are comparatively healthy. This pattern continues into adulthood, and appears to be true for children around the world. The first variable you would expect to account for these differences is whether the child comes from a prosperous or a poor background. It’s true, children from poorer backgrounds suffer slightly more illnesses and show more signs of psychological disturbance, but socioeconomic factors by no means account for all children who are in that fifth of the population who suffer half the illnesses. Whether a child blossoms or falters is driven wholly neither by environment nor by genetics, but by the interplay between the two. In this book, paediatric health expert W Thomas Boyce identifies two personality types. He argues that four fifths of children appear to be “dandelions”, who can thrive in most environments. The remaining fifth are “orchids”, who are more exquisite and unusual and have a higher potential than dandelions – but for this to be realised they require a particular environment and careful gardening. Like delicate plants, these children, if dealt with insensitively, have a greater tendency to run into problems. How do you tell if a child is an orchid? They tend to be sensitive, shy, have negative emotional reactions to novel or changing conditions, and perhaps display challenging behaviour. But these symptoms cannot be taken as proof that a child will necessarily respond in a certain way to tests and show a high stress biological reaction to an external stressor. The symptoms are only correlations, they can only indicate that it is likely. Boyce and his team test the biological stress response in children by setting various tasks such as watching an emotional video, having to repeat a string of numbers back to the researcher and having a drop of lemon juice put on the tongue and being asked to say what that was like. Although the experiment is scripted, and the researchers who test the children are all warm towards their subjects, how much cortisol (a stress hormone) and how much their autonomic nervous system (flight-or-fight response) is stimulated varies enormously, though in a predictable way. Time and time again, about four fifths of subjects show low levels of biological stress in these tests, and a fifth exhibit significantly higher stress levels. The children who show the higher stress response often have a slightly warmer right ear when their temperatures are taken, while others often have a slightly warmer left ear. Again, these differences in ear temperature can only indicate a possibility, not a certainty. When children are tested after a stressful time, such as a family breakup, an earthquake or a different change in environment a pattern emerges. If orchids get the right nurturing, sufficient soothing and opportunities for self-expression – in other words, an environment that allows their sensitivities to work for them – they come out on top, higher than the dandelions. But if their environment works against them, they sink to the bottom, below the more robust dandelions who are less affected by their environment. The take-home message of the book is: orchid children are more susceptible to both negative and positive social conditioning; they have both the best outcomes and the worst. Boyce tells the story of himself and his sister: he the dandelion, she the orchid. Not being so susceptible to the sometimes critical atmosphere of their childhood home, he went on to excel, whereas her early promise was confounded by physical and mental illnesses – she killed herself when she was 53. With hindsight, he can see that he was only slightly troubled by, say, his parents fighting, whereas she was immobilised with fear, frozen and traumatised by it. He believes a more sensitive, nurturing environment would have allowed her confidence and obvious talents to blossom and her story to have had a happier outcome. This is a necessary and important book. To know that one fifth of people do not have a choice about how they physically react to stress should make us more understanding of the differences between us all. Children should be nurtured so that both orchids and dandelions can thrive. But I worry about how the orchid and dandelion theory might be employed. The danger of putting people into categories is that we unwittingly respond not to the person, but to their label.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Elise

    I teach on the theories and empirical data underlying the differential susceptibility hypothesis and biological sensitivity to context. So, I was curious to read the more “popular press” version of this work. Unexpectedly, my response to “The Orchid and the Dandelion” moved far beyond scientific interests. I found it to be unexpectedly moving and at times, profound. As someone who also lost my brilliant, orchid sibling tragically and far too young, I empathize deeply with the author’s quest to u I teach on the theories and empirical data underlying the differential susceptibility hypothesis and biological sensitivity to context. So, I was curious to read the more “popular press” version of this work. Unexpectedly, my response to “The Orchid and the Dandelion” moved far beyond scientific interests. I found it to be unexpectedly moving and at times, profound. As someone who also lost my brilliant, orchid sibling tragically and far too young, I empathize deeply with the author’s quest to understand the divergent trajectories we take in life. A few meaningful quotes: “The world can be a scary, dark, and lonely place—whether you are young and frightened or aged and tired, whether akin to a sturdy dandelion or to a tender orchid... But there are also moments of grace, when unexpected goodness arrives, from some deep, unseen reserve of love, and makes it possible for us to rest and sleep and trust that all will finally be well.” “Each human life is a pearl of inestimable value. At our core, every one of us born into this bright, troubled world is a being of radiant complexity and unspeakable worth. We are all, as the psalmist had it, “fearfully and wonderfully made.” Whether we ascend some vaunted ladder of fortune or abide within a hidden life, whether we achieve great things or small, whether we are clever, average, dull, whether pleasing to the eye or possessed of a countenance only a mother could love, we are each of us so great a miracle of creation as to make all the vagaries of station, stature, and strength like the window dressings for a masterpiece. And yet... there are lives, like that of my sister, Mary, that possess within them such enormous, silent possibility for both misery and joy, floundering and flourishing, that there falls perhaps upon all of us a shared obligation to intervene, a collective responsibility to assure protection and safety in the lives of the vulnerable.”

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    I really enjoyed this book. I first heard about it on WPR, and as a teacher of young children and a parent myself, I've always wondered why some kids are more sensitive to everything than others. When I heard the author describing his research, I was intrigued. Basically, about 20% of all humans are very sensitive to their environment, meaning that react very strongly (with a lot of cortisol) to moderately stressful situations and in very loving nuturing environments, they absorb all that nuturan I really enjoyed this book. I first heard about it on WPR, and as a teacher of young children and a parent myself, I've always wondered why some kids are more sensitive to everything than others. When I heard the author describing his research, I was intrigued. Basically, about 20% of all humans are very sensitive to their environment, meaning that react very strongly (with a lot of cortisol) to moderately stressful situations and in very loving nuturing environments, they absorb all that nuturance and love and grow up to be extraordinary people. These are the orchid children. Unfortunately for them, if the environment is stressful, they are more likely to get sick, reapeatedly. Dandelion children on the other hand can thrive in many different types of environments, and can go with the flow even if life situations are mildly stressful. His research and writing covers the gamut: evolutionary biology, scientific studies with both human and and other primate youngsters, epigenetics, public policy, and poetry. I am especially intrigued with epigenetics. For example, did you know that people whose parents or grandparents experienced long periods of hunger have a higher chance of becoming obese and developing other diseases? And young girls who grow up in a stressful environment, from the womb on, mature and reproduce earlier than their counterparts? Like the name of the book, his writing is rather flowery, but I enjoyed every sentence of it, and his ideas continue to form my work as a teacher of young children. Just the other day, I was remarking to a parent whose daughter was having separation anxiety, that we see a few kids like this every year, and while it is hard to see them suffer, with the caring environment in our school, they grow up to be some of the most amazing, empathic, and loving kids in our school.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Erose

    I feel it is important to make a distinction between a book not being what you expected and a book being poorly done or not worth reading. That said, if you are expecting a quick purely practical guide to tell what kind of kid you have, or get nuts and bolts advice about your own kid, this isn't that book, and it doesn't take long reading to tell that it was never supposed to be that book. Boyce's research represents an entire new framework for understanding the relationship between nature and n I feel it is important to make a distinction between a book not being what you expected and a book being poorly done or not worth reading. That said, if you are expecting a quick purely practical guide to tell what kind of kid you have, or get nuts and bolts advice about your own kid, this isn't that book, and it doesn't take long reading to tell that it was never supposed to be that book. Boyce's research represents an entire new framework for understanding the relationship between nature and nurture, and his conclusions are informed by some of the newest research on that question. This book introduces and explains his theories and leads a reader along the steps of the science that brought him there. It is careful to avoid -- and thank goodness -- dumbing down or oversimplifying his conclusions, but also does not allow a reader to spend too long muddling through a study without throwing out a hand to a lay reader. By far the strongest elements of the book were when Boyce was explaining his research and its main implications -- he can get a little florid when he gets too far beyond the boundaries of pure science, and I felt that perhaps the experiences with his sister that he says informed his research were not necessarily the best illustration of his points. It was interesting to know his personal motivations, but this was a much older sister, from what I understood, and I felt that distance from the relevant moments made the connection too hazy to be the narrative meat of the book. That said, well worth the read, especially if you have a background with children or psychology.

  26. 4 out of 5

    erforscherin

    A surprisingly interesting and entertaining read! Most child development books tend to be dry and boring, but Boyce marries the best of science and storytelling. Not only are his central hypothesis and supporting research experiments clearly explained and easy to follow, but it’s all also just plain fun to read: preschool- and kindergarten-age kids are often wonderfully silly and absurd test subjects, and Boyce has a knack for pulling out the humor in those encounters. (In fact, I’d say it’s nea A surprisingly interesting and entertaining read! Most child development books tend to be dry and boring, but Boyce marries the best of science and storytelling. Not only are his central hypothesis and supporting research experiments clearly explained and easy to follow, but it’s all also just plain fun to read: preschool- and kindergarten-age kids are often wonderfully silly and absurd test subjects, and Boyce has a knack for pulling out the humor in those encounters. (In fact, I’d say it’s nearly impossible to get through this book without reading at least one passage aloud to your partner and/or pets! We especially loved the sidenote on the Tooth Fairy study — “kid logic” is far too cute. :) Broadly, the main hypothesis here is that ~20% of young children are “orchids”, who react more dramatically to stressful changes in their environment than their more resilient “dandelion” cohorts. Compared to young dandelions, young orchids are more likely to do poorly in stressful environments if left un- or undersupported, yet (paradoxically) are also more likely to thrive even in the face of stress if given a supportive framework. Now, all of this might sound a bit new-agey at first, but I’d encourage you to hang in there beyond the introduction: Boyce has some fascinating research to share, and there’s a lot to ponder here, whether or not you ultimately agree with his thesis. As a soon-to-be-parent myself, I have a feeling I’ll probably be coming back for a reread in a few years.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Megan Tarver

    I really wanted to like this book. I found some parts of it very enlightening and validating but I also was disturbed by some of the conclusions that were drawn. For me this book had a lot of fascinating scientific information but there was too much fluff. And as an orchid through and through I REALLY didn't appreciate all the negativity towards Orchids. Throughout the book there was just a lot of disdain and negative language towards orchids. Even in the poem at the end, dandelions are made of I really wanted to like this book. I found some parts of it very enlightening and validating but I also was disturbed by some of the conclusions that were drawn. For me this book had a lot of fascinating scientific information but there was too much fluff. And as an orchid through and through I REALLY didn't appreciate all the negativity towards Orchids. Throughout the book there was just a lot of disdain and negative language towards orchids. Even in the poem at the end, dandelions are made of "sturdy stuff" and orchids have a "gifted flaw." It just perpetuates the negative societal attitudes we have towards empaths, calling us "bleeding hearts." Telling us we're "too sensitive" all the time. He talks about an experiment where there was a box in the middle of the room and inside was a video of Finding Nemo. The kids had to look through eye holes to see the film but they couldn't push the buttons on the sides to turn on the video themselves. So they had to work together. The kids were timed for 15 minutes to see how long each child was able to watch the video. They found that so-called "orchid" children who had higher stress reactions to new stimuli had less time watching the video than the dandelion children. It's because the orchid children were trying desperately to figure out how to make the situation equitable for all while the dandelion children probably just started bossing everyone around to get what they wanted. In that same chapter was the part that angered me the most about the whole book. The part that made me put it down for a few days. “Not altogether surprisingly, kids occupying the bottom rungs [socially] of these little classroom communities were substantially more likely to show symptoms of depression than were kids at the top. By contrast, children who enjoyed the loftiest, most dominant ranks in their classroom hierarchies were the most mentally healthy.” Equating popularity with mental health? What? Maybe those dominant children were actually bullies or showing narcissistic traits. What if we had more Orchids in the world? Maybe it would a kinder and more equitable place.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Hudd Huddleston

    These are more of my notes along the way so I can remember: I’m 1/3 of the way through... sometimes it gets pretty textbookish. Boyce goes into a lot of detail about how his studies are set up. I’m learning a lot of super interesting things though... 1 in 5 kids are orchids. Whether by birth or brought on by circumstances. And that 20% of children make up 50% of medical treatments for their age groups both physically and social emotional. Orchids in a negative environment typically have serious These are more of my notes along the way so I can remember: I’m 1/3 of the way through... sometimes it gets pretty textbookish. Boyce goes into a lot of detail about how his studies are set up. I’m learning a lot of super interesting things though... 1 in 5 kids are orchids. Whether by birth or brought on by circumstances. And that 20% of children make up 50% of medical treatments for their age groups both physically and social emotional. Orchids in a negative environment typically have serious problems in the future but orchids that come from supportive low stress homes make up the most successful people. So their ceiling is way higher because of their sensitivity to their surroundings. Another really interesting thing was that orchids from a stable supportive home begin puberty later than the average but orchids that live with stressors will begin before avg. (Early puberty is linked to a lot of negative outcomes. Teenage pregnancies and early sexual activity in general) dandelions are just down the middle on everything, which is nice but have less likelihood of doing something groundbreaking or super successful. Just like an orchid, hard to grow, but when done successfully they are the most rare extreme beauties... last takeaways are: the orchid dandelion label is a spectrum. One could be a dandelion with some orchid tendencies or vice versa. Or one could be an extreme dandelion or orchid. The best thing a parent or teacher can do is create a stable, supportive, loving environment for the child to thrive.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Victoria

    I had read a short article about Dandelion/Orchid children, written by the same author, in Psychology Today. I am, and I have co-created, a family of orchids (though as Boyce states in the final chapter, they are on a spectrum) and was curious to learn more so I was very excited to get started on this book. While it was full of interesting research and I was impressed by the studies Boyce created and participated in, the tone was a little too removed for me, a little too clinical, and I didn't l I had read a short article about Dandelion/Orchid children, written by the same author, in Psychology Today. I am, and I have co-created, a family of orchids (though as Boyce states in the final chapter, they are on a spectrum) and was curious to learn more so I was very excited to get started on this book. While it was full of interesting research and I was impressed by the studies Boyce created and participated in, the tone was a little too removed for me, a little too clinical, and I didn't learn much practical information that I hadn't previously figured out from extensive reading and empirical research in my own personal home laboratory. That said, the book does not claim to be a parenting guide, or a how-to-communicate-with book, but I would have liked a few chapters on how these children and adults are in the world in real life. Inner-ear temperature difference between dandelions and orchids is a fascinating find - I mean this in all seriousness - but is not really helpful when trying to understand these two types further. This feels like a real miss because the author has his own personal experience with an orchid sibling and I would have liked to know more about her - perhaps he was just respecting her privacy? But much thanks to W. Thomas Boyce for his research and hopefully we will see more on this subject in laymen's books soon.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    We all know that different children react to the world in many ways. The argument in this book is that most children are "Dandelions" and can thrive even in somewhat harsh circumstances. They are less sensitive and sturdier than their 'Orchid" counterparts. The interesting part of the argument is that the "Orchids" with a higher stress reaction and more sensitive consitution are either the kids who are the MOST likely to get sick and suffer from their surroundings or the LEAST likely. His theory We all know that different children react to the world in many ways. The argument in this book is that most children are "Dandelions" and can thrive even in somewhat harsh circumstances. They are less sensitive and sturdier than their 'Orchid" counterparts. The interesting part of the argument is that the "Orchids" with a higher stress reaction and more sensitive consitution are either the kids who are the MOST likely to get sick and suffer from their surroundings or the LEAST likely. His theory here is that orchids are more sensitive to their surrounding environment, so it if is supportive and loving and stable they really thrive (even more than dandelions) but they suffer more than dandelions in less than ideal circumstances. I get it... but his data seemed a tad too perfect and I am not sure it really pans out. Also if you are an adult who was an orchid in a rough place there is not much you can do about it. I guess it helps parents of orchids who are wondering why the world drives their children nuts, but if you are reading this book you are probably in the supportive, loving, taking care of your child demographic anyway...

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