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in: Fatherhood, Podcast, Relationships & Family

October 28, 2019 Last updated: November 5, 2019

Podcast #555: Dandelion Children vs. Orchid Children

You’ve probably observed families in which one of the kids is super resilient and easy-going while the other is super sensitive and anxious. Same family, same parents, but two extremely different children. What gives? 

My guest today says that some kids are like robust dandelions, while others are like fragile orchids. And while the fragility of orchid children might seem like a liability, in the right circumstances, these kids can actually thrive to an even greater extent than their dandelion peers. His name is W. Thomas Boyce, and he’s a developmental pediatrician and professor of pediatrics, as well as the author of the book The Orchid and the Dandelion: Why Some Children Struggle and How All Can Thrive. We begin our conversation discussing the respective attributes of dandelion and orchid children and how the increased reactivity of the latter influences their health, emotional well-being, and development. Tom then explains how orchid children can be both the healthiest and sickest of children, depending on the environment in which they’re raised. We then discuss the theories as to what causes orchid children to be orchid children, including genetics and environmental factors. We end our conversation with tips for parents of sensitive children on how to help them thrive and succeed.

Show Highlights

  • What does a dandelion kid look like? What does an orchid kid look like?
  • How to know your child’s “reactivity” or “sensitivity” levels
  • Is there a relationship between this orchid sensitivity and autism?
  • Why orchid children tend to have either the best or worst outcomes depending on context 
  • The interplay of environment and genes on high reactivity children 
  • The advantages of being highly sensitive
  • Why no two children are raised in the same family 
  • The roles of a child’s peers in their thriving or not 
  • What can parents do to help highly reactive children?
  • What happens to these reactive children when they grow up?

Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast

orchid and dandelion book cover w Thomas Boyce

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