Sunday Books: Completing The Circle

This chapter is entitled, “Watch Your Temper(ament)”, and how Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf Education, thought that class size was not as important as all of the children’s individual needs being met.  And the way he thought this could happen was by understanding the four temperaments.

In fact, author Poplawski writes:

A skilled  teacher has something in each lesson that appeals to each temperament and is also able to draw out and develop the special gift of each temperament. Thus the children learn to appreciate the strengths and virtues of those who are different from them……

The other approach to temperament work is equally important but perhaps more difficult. It requires that the teacher or parent take note of and then work on his own temperamental style. Balancing the excesses of this very intimate (and too often ignored) part of who we are constitutes an important path in our self development and has an important bearing not only in our interactions with our children but also in those with our friends, colleagues, and spouses.

Whew!  A tall order, to look inside and be aware, but so important in our work with our own children.

The Melancholic Adult:

  • Is aware of their body; possibly a low threshold for pain and discomfort, perhaps has many “ailments” that others may just shrug off. May have many allergies, digestive problems, headaches.
  • May be overly thin, not robust
  • May go to the doctor a lot
  • Provides a lot of love and attention to the child and especially for their ailments
  • However, this can turn into overprotection or controlling where the melancholic’s worries and ailments are put onto the child; this can cause a child to not play outside for fear of danger or accidents
  • Melancholics are usually perfectionists and can stifle children to live up to their standards
  • Melancholics can inhibit even extroverted children, so as parents they need community and to arrange playdates for their children.  They need to be careful not to project their own introversion and social reticence onto their children.
  • Melancholics want deep, intimate relationships with their children and may not dismayed by a child who does not want a deep relationship.  They have to find the balance and avoid hovering.
  • Chronic depression can be common with melancholic adults and this can in a sense be “passed on” to their children.  The melancholic adult needs to work very hard to balance themselves and the other temperaments they should have.
  • Melancholic parents are “potentially the best parents”  but need to lighten up, and remember the importance of community.

The Choleric Adult

  • Warm-hearted, impulsive, prickly, works hard
  • Action is what he lives for, and sometimes people can be just a tool to get to the end of what a choleric wants done
  • Can be the least sensitive to reading other people out of all the temperaments
  • In relating to children, the choleric adult is full of action, plans and projects, high in energy and fun
  • Tends to be more interested in what a child can do, than how a child feels
  • May be more interested in his own ideas than the ideas of others
  • Tends to lack rhythm and steadiness
  • Can be harsh with discipline; can be overwhelming and domineering and too much for sensitive children
  • Children raised by cholerics who have “blasts” of harshness can have breathing problems, and later on in life as adults metabolic challenges and poor digestion
  • “Choleric parenting” is not just reserved for individuals of a certain temperament but was a predominant parenting style in North America in years past

The Sanguine Adult

  • Light, carefree, optimistic, fun-loving
  • Most popular and most successful of the temperaments at times
  • Can bring joy and playfulness to children, but sometimes misses seeing the deeper needs of the child
  • Non-sanguine children can have a hard time keeping up with an overly sanguine adult
  • An overly sanguine adult can keep a child flitting from thing to thing and the child never develops the chance to connect within themselves, which can be especially problematic during adolescence since this is a developmental time to focus on meaning in the world
  • A sanguine adult often starts things but doesn’t finish them; this may extend to a very messy home and this lack of order and stability may impinge upon the development of orderly thinking in the child for later schoolwork
  • The sanguine adult may have a very hard time sticking to a rhythm in the home, or in providing consistent discipline
  • What a sanguine adult often needs to balance themselves is to develop their melancholic side with a melancholic’s attention to details and the needs of the child

The Phlegmatic Adult

  • Values comfort and non-confrontation, but can slip into laziness
  • Loyal, consistent, dependable
  • Rhythmical qualities are especially wonderful for small children
  • Children may be bursting with energy and vitality and the phlegmatic adult may be more of a “couch potato” and really dampen the child with their own tiredness and dullness
  • Too phelgmatic an approach can leave children uncared for and unattended
  • They may be poor disciplinarians or guides for their children with a lack of attention that melancholics bring to the details

Poplawski writes:

No temperament is good or bad. Each is a mixture of possible strengths and
weaknesses. We all need to develop the positive sides of our particular temperaments and consciously cultivate the positive qualities of the other temperaments. The first step is to identify what temperament we are. As adults we normally have a primary and then a secondary temperament

He recommends that in order to identify your primary temperament, that you first look to your body type (ie, lean and wiry =melancholic, rounded =phelgmatic, stocky and large neck= choleric, slim and balanced = sanguine).  If your primary temperament is one of the extroverted temperaments (sanguine or choleric), then your secondary temperament is almost always one of the introverted temperament or vice versa.  If we know what temperament we are, then we know how to adapt our temperament to meet what the child needs at that time.

Last chapter to come!

Many blessings,

4 thoughts on “Sunday Books: Completing The Circle

    • Michele,
      For adults, the goal is to really have all temperaments present and equal, balanced, able to pull out what we need for a give situation. Can you pull out your choleric side when you need it? Your sanguine side? Poplawski writes in the last paragraph of this chapter:

      Temperament has a physiological basis connected to our physical gestalt and
      neurotransmitter levels. It is not an immutable determinant of behavior. Over
      time we can with conscious effort adopt any temperament in a situation and
      become a harmonious blending of the four.

      The first step in temperament is self-awareness. And then the work, it begins.

  1. Pingback: Did you know there is a new temperament? | positive role models foundation

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