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

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I was interested in the Orchid and the Dandelion because of my professional field and because I am a parent. There is a lot of current interest about what makes children thrive despite difficulties, so I wanted to learn more about Boyce’s theory of humankind’s two basic personalities or temperaments. Boyce’s lifework has been studying children from a variety of circumstances and backgrounds and how they respond to stressful stimuli in their environment.

Early on in his career, he and his colleagues noted two extreme personality types: children who tended to be very sensitive to their environment, good or bad, and children whose environment, good or bad, did not have much effect on them. What Boyce found was that the extra sensitive children, which he refers to as orchids, tended to excel when their environment was nurturing, but they really struggle when their environment was not. The dandelions seemed to march through life in the middle of the road, no matter their situation. While this doesn’t sound earth shattering, it actually is because previously it was thought that a person’s temperament was set at birth and little could be done to change their life trajectory.

But Boyce’s research suggests that by helping adults learn how to be warm, responsive, and aware of children’s different personalities, we can do a lot for their future. I appreciate that Boyce explains that a child’s success in life is a complex dance of temperament, environment, and intergenerational family dynamics and history. This book is very research heavy, but the author’s explanations are very moving.


Reviewed By:

Author W. Thomas Boyce
Star Count 4/5
Format Hard
Page Count 304 pages
Publisher Knopf
Publish Date 2019-01-29
ISBN 9781101946565
Amazon Buy this Book
Issue April 2019
Category Parenting & Families
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