Do You Know Your Child’s Temperament?

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Each of the four types of humours corresponded in ancient times to a different personality type.

Sanguine: The sanguine temperament is fundamentally impulsive and pleasure-seeking; sanguine people are sociable and charismatic. They tend to enjoy social gatherings, making new friends and tend to be boisterous. They are usually quite creative and often daydream. However, some alone time is crucial for those of this temperament. Sanguine can also mean sensitive, compassionate and thoughtful. Sanguine personalities generally struggle with following tasks all the way through, are chronically late, and tend to be forgetful and sometimes a little sarcastic. Often, when they pursue a new hobby, they lose interest as soon as it ceases to be engaging or fun. They are very much people persons. They are talkative and not shy. Sanguines generally have an almost shameless nature, certain that what they are doing is right. They have no lack of confidence.

Choleric : The choleric temperament is fundamentally ambitious and leader-like. They have a lot of aggression, energy, and/or passion, and try to instill it in others. They can dominate people of other temperaments, especially phlegmatic types. Many great charismatic military and political figures were choleric. They like to be in charge of everything. However, cholerics also tend to be either highly disorganized or highly organized. They do not have in-between setups, only one extreme to another. As well as being leader-like and assertive, cholerics also fall into deep and sudden depression. Essentially, they are very much prone to mood swings.

Melancholic : The melancholic temperament is fundamentally introverted and thoughtful. Melancholic people often were perceived as very (or overly) pondering and considerate, getting rather worried when they could not be on time for events. Melancholics can be highly creative in activities such as poetry and art – and can become preoccupied with the tragedy and cruelty in the world. Often they are perfectionists. They are self-reliant and independent; one negative part of being a melancholic is that they can get so involved in what they are doing they forget to think of others.
Phlegmatic : The phlegmatic temperament is fundamentally relaxed and quiet, ranging from warmly attentive to lazily sluggish. Phlegmatics tend to be content with themselves and are kind. They are accepting and affectionate. They may be receptive and shy and often prefer stability to uncertainty and change. They are consistent, relaxed, calm, rational, curious, and observant, qualities that make them good administrators.

CHILDREN AND THE FOUR TEMPERAMENTS  –  WHAT?!

Almost as soon as your child enters the first grade (and sometimes even before), teachers begin to talk about the child’s temperament. The child seems to be classified into one of four categories of ancient Greek origin: phlegmatic, sanguine, choleric, or melancholic. What?! I’ve heard parents exclaim. I thought you looked at the whole child, at each child individually. How can you generalize like that and box each child into a single category of temperament? Aren’t children more complex than that?

And so the discussion starts. Yes, of course children are more complex than that. However, finding, through observation, the dominant characteristics of each child’s temperament helps the teachers to work with the individual children and with the group. Teachers should have a variety of ways to classify children as a result of careful observation, and these classifications change as the child passes through the different developmental stages leading to adulthood. In the early childhood years, the teachers speak of the children as being large or small headed, dreamy or awake. Once the child reaches grade school age, and until about (and often just beyond) the nine-year change, it tell that teachers speak in terms of the four temperaments. Once the temperaments no longer seem to be a helpful way of looking at the children, Teachers find it useful to observe children in terms of the seven soul types.

Before going into descriptions and characteristics of the four temperaments, I would like to address the question: Aren’t children more complex than that? Can they exhibit more than one temperament? Of course the answer is yes, and yes. Most children show dominance in just one of the temperaments, though many show a strong tendency towards a second as well. A few seem not to show any clear dominance. In addition, the youngest grade schoolers often still show the sanguinity of early childhood itself, an element of temperament that can mask the child’s individual temperament. Rather than trying to fit the children into one of four descriptive boxes, the teacher will consider all these variations while observing the child and try to understand from all the clues available who the child is and how best to work with him or her. And so, on to the descriptions.

Phlegmatic Children
Phlegmatic children live through their senses. This is the temperament of the first years of life, and in studying the nature of babies you can get a fairly good picture of the phlegmatic nature. Children of this temperament value safety, order and comfort. They are methodical and reliable. They take joy in rich sensory experiences, and tend to have good memories. They often appear soft, a bit round, and their skin usually feels warm and moist. Their favorite color is often green. Their element is water, and they tend to take joy in activities involving water.

Sanguine Children
Sanguine children, like sunbeams, bring light into the spaces they occupy. This is the temperament of early childhood. If you visit a nursery or kindergarten and observe the children moving quickly and easily from friend to friend, activity to activity like a butterfly among flowers, you can develop a feeling for the nature of the sanguine child. Sanguine children want to know everything and everybody, and to do everything, and in pursuit of this end may appear easily distractible and forgetful. They enjoy variety and spontaneity. They often appear slender and frequently run on their toes. Their element is air, and you may see all the colors of the rainbow expressed in whatever they do.
Choleric Children
Choleric children are energetic, enthusiastic and often impulsive. This is the energy one encounters in adolescence. They love working hard, especially when the task has clearly defined parameters including an easily identifiable conclusion. These children immerse themselves fully in everything they do. They accomplish a lot in a short period of time, but find sustaining activities over an indefinite period to be challenging. Their element is fire, and they frequently show a preference for fiery colors, particularly red. Choleric children often have a sturdy build and can wear out a pair of shoes at record speed because of their firm, purposeful tread.  Their handshake is firm, and often very warm. They are quick to anger, but also to laughter, and often can’t remember exactly what sparked the emotion.

Melancholic children
Melancholic children are thinkers and planners. They take their responsibilities seriously. This is the temperament of adulthood. Melancholic children are typically loyal friends and careful workers. They tend to care deeply for all living things, and are drawn to healing and fixing all that is damaged or broken. Melancholic children often appear slender and pale and, unlike the sanguine children, the melancholics tread firmly on the earth, sometimes even dragging their feet a little. Their hands often feel cold to the touch. Melancholic children often show a strong interest in nurturing occupations and will work tirelessly for the benefit of others. Their element is earth, and they generally find the care of the earth satisfying. With their propensity for seriousness, they usually exhibit a strong, reliable memory, and a talent for leadership

These are quick summaries of the temperaments. They provide an interesting tool for understanding the nature of children especially during the ages between six and ten.

Post by guest writer Wemimo Adebiyi. (telliteducationalservices@gmail.com)

Wemimo Adebiyi is a certified child care consultant and a character building coach.

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