Many parents of children in Waldorf Schools and Waldorf homeschooling families are fascinated with the idea of the temperaments. Waldorf Education routinely finds that middle place between nature (children are formed through genetics and family lines at birth) and nurture by working with individuality. Each child has an individuality, and the temperament of a child provides us, as teachers and parents, a way to work with children. We often talk about how not only are there temperaments in individual children – melancholic, sanguine, phlegmatic, and choleric temperaments – but that different stages of life are know for having a temperament as well. Small children are often very sanguine, for example, on top of an individual temperament. The teenaged years are often a very choleric time.
Our job as parents and educators is to nurture positive aspects of every temperament. Too often on blogs and in books, I hear solely of the negative aspects of a certain temperament. The other thing that is rarely mentioned is the transformation of the child’s temperament during adolescence. This is seen as real individuality begins to emerge during adolescence.
We can always consider the “sub” temperaments a child has – perhaps your child is choleric but has a strong melancholic side, for example. These “sub” temperaments often influence such things as extroversion and introversion, level of excitability, and more.
In adolescence, we may see several transformations. These are written about quite beautifully in the esteemed Betty Staley’s book, “Between Form and Freedom: A Practical Guide to the Teenaged Years.” These transformations are noted as follows:
- The melancholic child often becomes a choleric adult. This is often seen in a melancholic’s wonderful attention to detail that becomes so helpful in leadership (many cholerics are leaders!)
- The choleric child often becomes a sanguine adult. During adolescence, they can be swayed by emotions to the point that they are easily pulled about like a sanguine. This temperament can also have an especially hard as their friends come into stronger individuality during adolescence. Some cholerics can also have a strong melancholic undertone. These teenagers need to be surrounded by loving friends and family and ideals so they can become adults devoted to truth and duty to humanity.
- The sanguine child often becomes a phlegmatic adult. The changes and “heaviness” that puberty brings often slows the sanguine child down and helps them become reliable adults.
- The phlegmatic child often becomes a melancholic adult. This is noted as one of the more complicated adolescent temperaments. Adolescence for this teenager can be about withdrawal, dealing with heaviness, and trying to deal with their own frustrations.
Temperament study is so interesting. Every year as part of my homeschool planning I go back and re-read things dealing with the temperaments. If you are interested in further reading about these changes, I highly recommend Betty Staley’s book.