Posted by & filed under Child Development, Families and Peers, Human Development, Stress Coping - Health.

Description: Think of all the different ways in which you can think about and talk about developing children: shy – outgoing, independent – dependent, leaders—followers and on and on. All such dichotomies tend to focus on a part or aspect of children or child development and do not scale up well, into big pictures of how development can proceed and what differences might be useful in describing the process. So maybe we do not need any more dichotomies but let’s try one more on for size. Think about children you know and then think about which of them are orchids and which of them are dandelions. What images of development come to mind as you think about these two types of flowers? Well, orchids require very particular soils and environments to thrive whereas dandelions sprout up almost anywhere in almost any conditions. After you have thought for a moment or two about what the dichotomy might point to in the way of different developmental processes and outcomes have listen to the radio story that looks into what Thomas Boyce suggests about orchid and dandelion  children.

Source: Is your child an orchid or a dandelion? How one expert’s theory can help us raise better people, Anna Maria Tremonti, The Current, CBC Radio.

Date: March 21, 2019


Article Link:

This dichotomy between orchid and dandelion children is different and more useful that many other “there are two kinds of children” hypothesis mainly because this one does not dwell on basic or characterological differences between children. Instead Boyd asks us to consider the child within their entire developmental environment and, as well, not just how the child responds to their environments but how their environments (Parents, peers, teachers etc.) respond to them. Boyd points out that resilience is not a genetic-like attribute of children but is something that is relational and that exists in and through all of the social connections and relationships that children live in and grow up through. As the last bit of the sub-title of Boyd’s book suggests “All Can Thrive,” and thinking about orchids and dandelions helps us work on making that come to reality.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How does thinking about children as orchids and dandelions help us to more effectively examine child development?
  2. What does it mean to say that resilience is relational?
  3. What sorts of things should parents be trying to do for their orchid child(ren)? And what about for their dandelion children?

References (Read Further):

Boyce, W. Thomas (2019) The orchid and the dandelion: Why some children struggle and how all can thrive. Allen Lane

Dobbs, D. (2009). Dandelion Kids and Orchid Children How vulnerability is responsiveness, danger opportunity, and an apparent weakness—genetically conferred sensitivity to environment—may be the secret to human (and humankind’s) success. Atlantic.

Herbert, W. (2011). On the trail of the orchid child. Scientific American Mind, 22(5), 70-71.