In this chapter of “Completing The Circle”, available for free on-line, we are looking at “The Four Temperaments”. Thomas Poplawski writes:
The notion of temperament is very old, dating back at least to the ancient
Greece. Hippocrates, in the fourth century BC, spoke of four qualities or “humors” in the human being—cold, moist, hot and dry. In the second century AD, the physician, Galen, spoke of the mixing or “temperare” of these four humors to yield four temperaments. These in turn were related to the four elements yielding the fiery choleric, the airy sanguine, the watery phlegmatic, and the earthy melancholic.
Poplawski goes on to trace the idea of the temperaments through the ideas of the Greeks, and right into modern times and how the temperaments are used in Waldorf Education. The job of an adult is to help a child break out of their habitual tendencies, and lead them toward balance
Poplawski then goes through all four of the temperaments of children. In a very quick summary, the melancholic child is very sensitive and empathetic towards animals and other people, but can also tend toward worrying, obsessive or hypochondriac thoughts. He can be prone to stomachaches, constipation, digestion problems, and headaches but also has an incredibly excellent memory. The melancholic child needs help to move toward helping others, focusing outward, and needs emotional and physical warmth. He may be drawn to sweets and needs more of them than other children, along with oils – oatmeal was recommended by Steiner himself. He also needs encouragement to be outside and to develop within the social realm so he is not alone. Also, be aware that a child who is melancholic-choleric is a fairly common combination.
A child who has a sanguine tendencies is full of light and joy. Childhood is a sanguine term of life, but children who have this as a dominant temperament have a need for constant change and may display a fear of boredom. He or she may be restless and usually can be found in motion. Follow-through is difficult for these children, and a string of broken promises may trail them. Concentration, memory, focused and organized thought may all be difficult. Television and other “screen time” are the worst things for this child, as well as addressing things head-on. Sideways enthusiasm, working together, is your best bet for dealing with a sanguine child.
Phlegmatic children typically are associated with a more rounded, soft body type and may love eating. Often characterized by slow movement, solid thinking, focused and deep thought, a phlegmatic child may not be interested in many things at all. A phlegmatic child needs community to help them become interested in things. A phlegmatic child can have difficulty with change, and may tend to be passive and lean into comfortable surroundings and routines.
Lastly, choleric children can often be quick-tempered, but also have a warm heart and are very energetic. They may be stocky or muscular with thick necks. They love action and often know no fear. They are the do-ers of the world.
Often as adults, we get along best with the child whose temperament is most similar to our dominant temperament. Poplawski writes:
Parents and teachers need the flexibility to enter into the particular
temperament of a child and be that temperament for that child. They must learn to appeal to and relate to each of the temperaments….To be really successful in reaching the various temperaments, though, is more than a matter of technique. Rather, it involves a certain degree of self-knowledge and self-recognition—in terms of temperament, who am I as an adult? How one-sided is my approach to life, and how open am I to another perspective?
More to come.