The Four Temperments
Children and The Four Temperaments
Even before your child is born the feeling of his or her temperament is growing. The child seems to be classified into one or 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?
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 parent and teachers to work with the individual children and with the group. Waldorf teachers 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. And so begins our journey to help children express their inner gifts through their temperaments(physical and emotional traits) and out to the world.
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...
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 when they have been living into their temperament for several years.
**Please feel free to download and print The Four Temperaments.