{Big Ideas} Flow, Optimal Experience, and Parenting Kids and Teens

In the early ’00s–not long before this TED talk, I heard Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi speak in person on “flow.”

This was a serious, geeky fangirl moment for me. I’d been following his work for several years upon the recommendation of one of my former bosses, a now retired dean at The University of Texas Austin.

In the 1990s, Csikszentmihalyi’s work helped shape my approach to advising young adults in topics related to academic and career matters. It also helped me, as a woman in her late 20s, begin to feel more whole. I learned what experiences felt optimal as a person. (Hint: you’re looking at it.)

In recent years I’ve been thinking a lot about parenting kids in a way that helps them cultivate “flow,” or optimal experiences. With my research and writing for my bullying book, I’m also thinking of how any kid who is struggling to fit (be it academically or socially or emotionally) may find the cultivation of flow a way to tune into the joys of human experience. Finding flow can help a kid feel a little more confident, stand a little taller, and potentially release fear and anxiety. Later, mindful of how flow–when carefully cultivated–can energize us, young people can make healthy life and career choices in step with who they are.

Flow, when we know it and grow it, gives us humans personal, internal metrics for measuring our sense of worth and craft our own definitions of “success.” This is important. In fact, I think it’s so important for when we talk about parenting gifted kids in particular that I’m going to give a brief nod to flow again here tomorrow in a separate post.

For now, though, I’d like you to  watch the above TED video and ask yourself:

What might putting flow cultivation front and center in our households do for our kids?

Parents, I’d love to hear your answers, thoughts, and stories in Comments.

Explore More:
• I keep a copy of Csikszentmihalyi’s book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience on a virtual shelf in my Amazon store. You’ll likely find it at your library, too.

Pareting with a Goal of Flow  Pamela Price  RedWhiteandGrew.com



  1. I love how you apply the work of Csikszentmihalyi, and I’m excited to watch the video. Thanks for sharing and asking a fun guiding question.

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