Are You an Orchid or a Dandelion? This is One of the Most Important Questions You’ll Ever Answer

Dear Friends,

We are so excited to share with you this groundbreaking work by the distinguished UCSF Professor Tom Boyce. Put simply, Boyce and others have shown that some people are like dandelions — able to thrive in just about any environment. Others are more like orchids: when conditions are harsh, they tend to wilt. But when conditions are right, they actually do even better than their hardier peers.

This has enormous implications — especially if you’re raising a sensitive child. We’re told often that we overthink our roles as parents — that our kids are mostly the product of their genetic makeup and their experiences with peer groups. But when it comes to sensitive children, this isn’t right. We have the power to make a huge difference in the lives of these kids.

Here’s an excerpt from Professor Boyce’s important new book, The Orchid and the Dandelion

We hope you love it as much as we do.



Among the most fervent ambitions of this book is to offer solace and hope…to the parents, teachers, siblings, and others who have lost their confidence in the retrievable promise of a child or children; and to those whose belief in a child’s inherent goodness and potential has been shaken. For in the story of the figure of speech from which this book draws its enigmatic title—the metaphor of orchid and dandelion—lies a deep and often helpful truth about the origins of affliction and the redemption of individual lives. Most children—in our families, classrooms, or communities—are more or less like dandelions; they prosper and thrive almost anywhere they are planted Like dandelions, these are the majority of children whose well-being is all but assured by their constitutional hardiness and strength. There are others, however, who, more like orchids, can wither and fade when unattended by caring support, but who—also like orchids—can become creatures of rare beauty, complexity, and elegance when met with compassion and kindness.

While a conventional but arguably deficient wisdom has held that children are either “vulnerable” or “resilient” to the trials that the world presents them, what our research and that of others has increasingly revealed is that the vulnerability/resilience contrast is a false (or at least misleading) dualism. It is a flawed dichotomy that attributes weakness or strength—frailty or vigor—to individual subgroups of youth and obscures a deeper reality that children simply differ, like orchids and dandelions, in their susceptibilities and sensitivities to the conditions of life that surround and sustain them. Most of our children can, like dandelions, thrive in all but the harshest, most bestial circumstances, but a minority of others, like orchids, either blossom beautifully or wane disappointingly, depending upon how we tend and spare and care for them.

This is the redemptive secret the story herein reveals: that those orchid children who founder and fail can as easily become those who enliven and thrive in singular ways. In the end it is not vulnerability but sensitivity that defines the orchid, and when given the right support, that sensitivity can blossom into lives of great joy, success, and beauty… To one degree or another, we are all one of those that our research revealed—orchids or dandelions, the sentient or the unaware, people who differ, sometimes sharply, in their sensitivities and tendernesses to the world. Might the hidden beauty lying unseen in the scientific recognition of orchid children be a revelation that there is no human frailty beyond such redemption? That even the most inimical of human traits and shortfalls is redeemable and perhaps even protective within the right settings and conditions of life?

Check out Tom’s amazing interview on March 4th with “Fresh Air” HERE.

We receive modest Amazon affiliate commissions for our book recommendations; but we only recommend books we believe in!