The Melancholic Child–Ages 7 and Up



(This post is not meant to address children who are clinically depressed.  Please speak to a health care professional if you feel your child is depressed). 


Then you should know exactly which children lean toward

inner reflection and are inclined to brood over things; these are

the melancholic children. It is not easy to give them impressions

of the outer world. They brood quietly within themselves,

but this does not mean that they are unoccupied in their

inner being. On the contrary, we have the impression that they

are active inwardly.  – “Discussions With Teachers” Lecture One, Rudolf Steiner


Rudolf Steiner was not the first person to work with the ideas of the human temperaments;   the Greek physician Hippocrates incorporated the four temperaments into his medical work and the temperaments have made their way into medicine and psychology since then.  Rudolf Steiner linked the four temperaments to not only his ideas regarding the four fold human being, but also to the different developmental cycles of the human being.  For example, he felt the early childhood years of birth through seven were a predominantly sanguine time.


When we look at children, I have spoken to many mothers who feel the predominant temperament of their child is melancholic.  Many melancholic children have a particular physical body type – tall, slender, mournful eyes, a slow gait.  They tend to think a lot about the past, themselves, and they have a good memory concerning things that happen to themselves.   They tend to analyze, brood and have a strong attention to detail.  Many times they are bothered by the idea of imperfection.  I find many melancholic children in my own life can be rather inflexible, and when things do not happen according to the pictures or thoughts they have laid out, they can become extremely upset or angry.


Many times melancholic children seem to have a poor quality of relationships with others.  These may be the children who have only a few good friends.  They can be drawn into relationships if something strikes them as unjust or unfair; sticking up for the underdog is often part of a melancholic child’s connection and sympathy to another person’s pain and suffering.


Here is my area of caution after working with many families over the years:  Please do not confuse the melancholic child with something else.  I have talked to many mothers who felt their child was melancholic, but when I looked at the child in person and observed them and the family, it seemed to me that the whole family may have been in  a stressful, rough patch that was feeding the child’s feelings that the world was not a good place and that the child was working with this sad, unjust feeling as projected from the mother or other attachment figure in the family.  Once the family became stabilized, the child also stabilized.  This is not true melancholia as a temperamental trait. 


I have also seen videos of children with sensory issues whose parents were clearly worn out by a child’s behavior and sometimes the child would respond with complaining and  brooding to try to arouse the parent’s attention and sympathy.  This is a scenario too long and complicated to get into via electronic medium, but again, I don’t think that is a true melancholic child.  That is a child trying to elicit attention and increased energy from a parent.  The take away  message is that if your own energy is really low, your child may be acting melancholic to try to arouse something out of you!   We must always look to ourselves first. 


And complaining does not always equal a melancholic child either.  I think we have to look at the whole picture of the whole child.  A child may complain and feel lonely through the nine year change, for example, but that is a developmental stage, but not true melancholia as a tempermental trait.


The way to work with a melancholic, as advised by many resources, is to listen carefully to the melancholic child’s deep and brooding thoughts and to tell them stories about others who have suffered or times of your own suffering in order to connect.


I think this works well in a classroom,  and we can also use it in the home environment.  However, I think there is something more that should predominate with a melancholic child in the home environment:  we have to be careful to listen, but not be a captive stage for hours on end by long tales of the woe of the melancholic child.  This can be a tricky balance!  The melancholic child should not set the tone for the home; we should as parents set the tone for our house.   In the home environment where we are with our children 24/7, it is important to demonstrate to the melancholic child how we protect our own emotional boundaries because this is an important aspect of modeling emotional health for this temperament type.  We can carefully listen to our child and then say  that we have certainly heard them, and that we will carry their thoughts with us whilst we go do the dishes or brush the dog.  We can help engage these children in real work, and get them physically moving instead of wallowing in their own negativity.   I find melancholic children often need more exercise and sometimes even more opportunities to be socially drawn out  than they may be prone to want themselves.  Melancholic children are often happiest being creative and reading, which is wonderful, but physical movement and community is very important for these children. 


In my mind, this temperament also needs a strong religious and spiritual life as they grow into adolescence and adulthood in order to have something to hold onto. We want to balance these children and all four of the temperaments that are within them and within us all.



Restlessness And Forgetfulness In The Eight To Ten Year Old

It is rather odd to me that so many mainstream parenting resources focus solely on the developmental stages and phases of the toddler and preschooler, and once a child becomes the age of children in the grades, no one seems to think these children are growing or changing in significant ways anymore!  Yet, parents of children between the ages of  7  to 14 will tell you this is a time of  incredibly rapid change.

To me, two of the hallmarks of development in the time between ages 8 to 10 involves restlessness and forgetfulness. 

It is literally so difficult for the 8 to 10 year old to settle down, to sit down, to focus at times.  It is unreasonable to think that a child in this age range will be able to sit and write and read all day long like an adult.   They are not adults, and they need a lot of movement and time to release energy.  Ways to do this include spending time in nature; neighborhood games; probably less organized sports than one thinks but more  family fun such as hiking, roller blading, roller skating, skiing, swimming, climbing; lots of breaks for movement during school; many chances for movement and DOING to permeate the subjects we are teaching in drawing, modeling, map making, painting, making models.

This is completely unpopular, but I believe strongly that media and screens for this age should be limited.  There are too many other things in life they need to experience with their hands and their restlessness is a sign of this need.

Another place this can be in conflict for homeschoolers is that  it can be very easy to want to really ramp up academics in this age range because the child seems so much more mature than earlier.  If one is not careful it is easy to lose sight that children of these ages are really in the heart of childhood and that rational thinking is not yet quite there.  Hang on, and keep including many concrete and doing ways of addressing your academic subjects.

Forgetfulness is something that very much annoys parents of children this age.  You can ask a child of this age to do something and they will forget within a moment or two. 

One of the ways we can work with this is through RHYTHM.  If the order of every morning is that we get up, we have breakfast, we get dressed and brush our hair and teeth and make our beds, then the child can follow that.  Do try to pick an order to things that works for your children.  For example, you may wish that everyone would get dressed and make their beds before breakfast but everyone wakes up starving, so craft a rhythm that takes that into account.

Chores are important, but you simply must figure out what you will do regarding the forgetfulness and dawdling around chores and what the consequences of this will be.   I have seen very individual approaches from family to family.

I think the last area surrounding forgetfulness that can be helpful is to think about bringing in habits – habits that will build character through practical life.  This takes time, and it is easy to want to work on everything at once.  Pick one area and really focus on that for forty days and see how it becomes ingrained in the child.  Sometimes for the child in this age range it can be something quite small, such as going back to making sure hands are washed before dinner, since acts of hygiene often slip around this age.  Maybe it is speaking politely; these are ages where many parents complain about the tone in which children speak.

To me, sometimes this age needs a bit of a carrot. Not a bribe at all, but more a bit of incentive.  Haven’t you ever had a really long and rough day and thought how you would try to persevere through it because you were getting to go out that night to something special, or you were going to eat something special for dinner, or you were going to call a special friend on the phone, and it made the day just a bit more bearable? To me, that is different than a bribe that is announced and “you must do this to earn this”.  It is just an incentive of something lovely that helps all days go just a little bit better and helps us keep on track.

I cannot tell you how often to try an incentive, or what that incentive even should be per say as I think that is so individual to each family and each situation, but it is just something to think about.

Just a few thoughts to ponder today!

Many blessings,

Peer Relationships For the Six to Eight Year Old

I have fielded quite a few emails and questions from mothers in my community about this issue, so I finally thought it was time for a blog post on the subject!

The question I get is from mothers who live in a neighborhood with lots of other children zooming about, and how the six year old girl or seven year old boy is all of the sudden very obsessed with playing with these neighborhood friends every minute.

This, by itself, may not be such a problem (I am sure those of you who grew up in neighborhoods, just like me, remember the “neighborhood gang” fondly), but what is happening in these cases is that the six and seven year old is picking up bad language, is acting surly towards their parents, is protesting vehemently when any kind of limit is set forth regarding not being able to go out and play.  Sometimes the neighborhood children are at these mother’s doors the moment the school bus rumbles away.  Sometimes the children of the mothers writing me are just waiting to play and staring at the neighborhood children’s door waiting for any signs of someone being home and therefore ready to play!  Does any of this sound familiar?

I am all for community, but I do feel in this situation one needs to have boundaries for one’s child.  Possibly very strong boundaries.  The peak of this behavior truly can be the seven year old boy and six year old girl, and since children under the age of 9 are prone to “emotional excess”, they may need your help in balancing things out.

I can recommend several things:

1.  Make it clear that playing with friends is dependent upon being nice within the family.  We don’t take the ugly out of the house. Smile 

2.  Some afternoons are “family only” or family outing kind of afternoons.  And after our outing or playing at home, gee, it is time for dinner and getting ready for bed.  We can play with friends tomorrow.  Six to eight year olds are still very little, and the world will not stop turning if they do not play with peers all the time. 

3.  Communicate with the neighborhood children’s parents and work out a sign or signal that your children are available to play whether it is the garage door being up, children being outside, front door open with just screen door shut, etc.  Sadly, sometimes the reason the children are at the door the moment the school bus rumbles away is because there is no one home at their house.  Sometimes this has to be confronted between the adults of the families as well.

4.  Plan things for the children to do before you they move into  free play – I have had success in the past with juicing lots of oranges by hand, taking turns rolling and cutting out gingerbread men, setting up obstacle courses, etc.  In this way we can all work on using kind words, taking turns, using good manners, including all children, before we go off to play on our own.

5.  Look carefully at the children your child is playing with and your child’s behavior afterwards.  There may need to be limits on how often your child plays with particular children, or where they play.  Some friends just play better together outside.  I find this to be especially true with eight year olds who will often take on the “persona” of the oldest child in a grouping and emulate that behavior, so again, limits are key.

6.  Know the families of the children your child is playing with.  Do try to ensure that if your child goes to a neighbor’s house that you know that family well, and that the playdate will not just turn into a screen fest when the children should be out and expending physical energy in the afternoon. 

7.  Do take the time to arrange play time with children of families that have similar values to yours.  Build that community, and pick the activities outside of your home that involve these children.  It may be easier to hang around with the children in the neighborhood (no driving to a park or whatnot), but as children grow they are able to tolerate going out a little bit more, and if your child never spends any time with the children you want to be that child’s community, the children that live closest will always be ranked as better friends in the eyes of the child.

These are just a few suggestions; I would love to hear your experiences in the comment box!

Many blessings,

How To Talk To Your Seven and Eight-Year Old

My friend and I were talking about this today:   how exactly do you talk to a seven or eight year old about things?  In Waldorf, we say to speak to the young child under age seven as if painting pictures with our words.  We strive for keeping the young child  dreamy and not just handing the five or six-year old piles of information for which they have no context.  We try to work through movement,through  their bodies, through music.

But what does one do with this age of seven and eight?  A seven or eight year still feels as though they are a part of the world, not separate.  A part of that rock, that tree, that root over there, a part of you and a part of me.  The world is still a beautiful place.   But yet, the world is opening up and they are changing.  We are supposed to be providing more information at this point because they are past that six/seven year transformation. 

What I finally thought of was this analogy:  sometimes with weaning a child, you hear the phrase don’t offer, but don’t refuse.  In other words, if the child initiates a nursing session, go with it if you can but don’t offer if you don’t have to.  I always thought this was a rather simplistic way to approach weaning (and you can see the two weaning posts on here if you would like to see more of my views on weaning!) but today I thought about the spirit of this.

If your seven or eight year old asks things, answer them as simply as possible. Now is the time to start answering things.  However, do take into account that they don’t need a book on the subject, and in fact, most children of this age are satisfied with just a sentence or two about their subject of inquiry.

When offering information, one must always be thinking:  is this topic something they need to know everything about right now?  In a year, when this topic comes up again, can I address it further?  Will this topic come up again in everyday life and can I address it little by little as it comes up?

If I want to bring something up with my child, I always ask myself, do they need this information now?  Is it essential information for them right this minute?  In a year, when they have more maturity, will it be better received at that point?

Parenting often has more of an art to it than people suppose and these are the questions I ask myself.  When to lead, when to follow my child’s lead, how much information to provide and when.  I firmly believe there should be a difference in what we tell an eight-year-old and a fifteen-year-old on  a given topic. 

Many blessings,


More About Quiet Time

This comment came in from a reader of the blog and I wanted her to have some feedback regarding Quiet Time.  She writes, “My 4 yr old has not napped since she was three and a half to four, but we continued having “rest time.” I had her stay in her own room to do this since she sometimes would fall asleep, but lately I have had her try doing her quiet time out in the den with me while the one yr old naps. Sometimes she tends to be less focused when I am there and wants to talk to me… I am interested in what parameters others set for quiet times for non-napping kids? Alone in room or out with mom in the den/living room? What kinds of activities – books only, quiet toys, does mom read to the child for part of the time or do they stay silent?

Also, I am curious how interruptions in sleep affect a four yr old… my daughter tends to wake at least once a night, sometimes twice, to use the toilet. And sometimes she just wants to be tucked back in and have one of us lay next to her for a couple minutes. I know at some point she’ll feel confident enough to just go to the bathroom on her own without waking us… But I wonder if this is disruptive to her quality of sleep?”

These are a few of my personal thoughts, but I hope many mothers will leave comments below as to their own practices.

I feel that during Quiet Time, mothers should be resting.  This may change as your children grow, but I feel if you are going about the house doing work, folding laundry, etc. and your child is younger than 7 and in that imitative phase, than they will want to be doing what you are doing.  Also, as homeschooling mothers, I feel it is an important priority for us to have some true down time to think, evaluate in our heads what happened in the morning in our homeschool time and to prepare in our heads for the afternoon activities.

I personally don’t mind if my child wants to be our big bed with me, but I am laying down with my eyes closed! or if they want to be on their own bed.  I also don’t mind when my four year old looks at (a few!) books (not the “ole giant stack!) and then rests, but I also feel many Waldorf mothers would feel this undermining to the point of Quiet Time – which would be the ability to be still and not have to be “entertained” by a book or by reading or by toys.  I don’t know, I would love to hear the perspectives of some of the Waldorf mothers out there!

As far as the waking up in the night to go to the bathroom, it seems to me that many four-year-olds are not dry through the night, so this may be a real need.  I think as long as she can really get up and go right back to sleep, then it is just where she is.  However, if she is up and fully awake, perhaps you could investigate a bit further.  Does she wake up at the same times every night to do this?  Could you bring her to the bathroom before you go to sleep yourself and would that change these nighttime waking patterns?  And then observe what goes on during the day…

C’mon mothers, please give your perspectives on Quiet Time and sleep.  Leave your comments in the box below!

Many blessings,


A Few Resources For The Nine-Year-Change

I got an email this morning from Rahima Baldwin Dancy regarding resources for the nine-year change and since it was so timely I  thought I would pass the suggestions onto all of  you:

First of all, I have mentioned this article in other posts on this blog but here is the link again for the free article regarding the nine-year-change:

I have passed that article on to many parents, Waldorf and non-Waldorf alike!

I love Daena Ross and her presentation on the 12 senses.  Here is one I have not heard but will be checking out soon:  her  workshop on “The Nine-Year Change”.  It  is available in CD format for only $12.50 plus shipping at

And finally, Rahima writes,  “If you have a daughter who is approaching (or in the midst of) puberty, I highly recommend signing on for our free tele-seminar with DeAnna L’am, author of Becoming Peers—Mentoring Girls into Womanhood. On Tuesday, Oct. 6th I will be interviewing DeAnna, who was a keynote speaker at our last conference in California, “Educating Our Children—Changing the World.”  If you are a mother, grandmother, stepmother, aunt or any woman with a special girl in her life, you won’t want to miss this discussion of ways to prepare yourself for her puberty and ways to lay a foundation for lifelong friendship with your daughter.  If you can’t make the live interview at 1:00 pm Pacific Time on Tuesday, Oct 6th, you can still sign up to receive the free recording.  To learn more, or to sign up, click on”

Other audio resources include the CDs of Betty Staley’s keynote, “It’s Never too Early to Prepare for Adolescence”  (which I have the CD of and really should review on this blog!  Boy, so many things to cover and so little time!).  William Bento’s workshop, “Adolescence: A Grail Journey of the Heart.”   I am not familiar with William Bento, but it may be worth checking out.  Rahima advises just entering  their last names into the search engine at

Hope that helps some of you!  Happy Friday!


The Eight-Year-Old: A View From Waldorf Education

(In Waldorf homeschooling, a child should be eight for most of second grade, so hence the references below to a second grader is also reference to an eight-year-old – Carrie)

Donna Simmons writes in her “Waldorf Curriculum Overview for Homeschoolers” that:   “The difference between First Graders and Second Graders can be quite startling:  the way they play together, run around the house, behave in group situations…one really gets a sense that Second Graders have arrived!”

Torin M. Finser writes in the  book “School As A Journey:  The Eight-Year-Odyssey of a Waldorf Teacher and His Class”:  “After the first day of second grade I found myself scratching my head and asking:  Where are the real Doug, Marc, Kirsten, Michael, Eben, Susan, Jacob?  Did they forget to show up?  After the second day my inner questioning was more intense:  what had happened to the open-hearted, naive, reverent, respectful children I had enjoyed last year?  Was this some kind of cruel joke?”

He notices that the children had changed, that they were more lively, that they were in constant movement, that they lived in extremes over the smallest thing, and every child now had an opinion about everything!

In “Second Grade”, an article by Manette Teitelbaum in the book, “Waldorf Education:  A Family Guide”, the author writes how “Energies freed from the process of forming the body now awaken the subjective world of feeling – wonder, pity, joy, tenderness and sorrow.  These are the currents of air upon which these new little butterflies will rise, on which they will find their relationship to the world about them.”

A HUGE part, the MAIN part of Waldorf Second Grade is to work on the balance and harmonizing of the child.  For example, the juxtaposition of the Legends of Saints and the Trickster Tales speak strongly to the child searching for a balance between the duality of emotions and actions here on earth.

Donna Simmons notes in her “Waldorf Curriculum Overview” this important note:  “Unless they have been prematurely woken up and have already slid into acting like the jaded child caricatures seen of TV, eight-year-olds are still very open and trusting about the world.  If one takes to heart the Waldorf pedagogical maxim that beauty, truth and goodness should surround the child to thereby aid his full development as a human being, then one will take care to shelter him from societal influences that encourage premature sexuality, intellectualism and cynicism.”

Steiner lectured about this age in the compilation “Soul Economy” in a lecture entitled, “Children From the Seventh to the Tenth Year” given on December 31, 1921.  He discusses the changes with the coming of the second teeth and how the spiritual forces are now affecting the rhythmic movement of the heart and the lungs. “During the first phase (and by this he means the change of teeth until about the end of the ninth year), children want to experience everything that comes toward them in relation to their own inner rhythms- everything associated with beat and measure.”  He discusses how the images formed by seeing everything in the world now acts mainly on the rhythmic system of movement.

He goes on to comment, “With the change of teeth new soul forces  of feeling, linked to breathing and blood circulation, come into their own, with the result that children begin to distance themselves from others, whom they now experience as individuals.  This creates in them a longing to follow the adult in every way, looking up to adults with shy reverence.”

All of these passages highlight important clues as how to best live with and help guide an eight-year-old.  In our next and last post regarding the eight-year-old, we will look at how to peacefully live with an  eight-year-old.

Many blessings,