Today I’m taking a break from talking about my book to return to the new project I’ve talked about a little before–making a spiritual growth plan for children of each temperament. First I’ll give a little overview of the four classic temperaments, tell you a little more about this project, then delve in deeper to help you with your choleric children. At the bottom you’ll find a special download to help you.
What are the four temperaments?
The four classic temperaments are choleric, melancholic, phlegmatic, and sanguine. Catholic philosophers adpoted them from the Greeks. There are several good sources for learning about the temperaments from a Catholic perspective. Art and Laraine Bennett have written several books on the temperaments. Fr. Conrad Hock’s treatment of the temperaments can be read online. Traditional books on spiritual direction usually address the temperaments as well.
To figure out which temperament you have, ask yourself two questions:
- Are my initial reactions to stimuli intense or dull?
- Do my impressions last or do they quickly fade?
Intense & lasting=choleric
Intense & fading=sanguine
Dull but lasting=melancholic
Dull and fading=phlegmatic
These different reactions to stimuli cause people with various temperaments to act differently. People with the same temperament tend to have an entire host of similar behaviors stemming from these reactions.
As you study the temperaments, keep in mind that many people have a secondary temperament. Most often, a phlegmatic would have a secondary temperament that is sanguine or melancholic. A sanguine could secondarily be phlegmatic or choleric. A choleric could be secondarily sanguine or melancholic. And a melancholic could be secondarily choleric or phlegmatic.
The Bennetts believe that no one has more than two temperaments, and no psychologically healthy person shares two opposite temperaments. In other words, he would not be both melancholic and sanguine, or both phlegmatic and choleric. We would call people that exhibit strong traits of opposite temperaments bi-polar.
Other authorities, however, think there are a larger mix of temperaments. I think it is clear that some people do have habits that span the typical reactions of three temperaments, but some of those habits may be learned, or come from other aspects of the personality, rather than temperament.
The Choleric child
As I begin to create and implement spiritual growth plans for each of my children, I am focusing first on my choleric child, who also happens to be our eldest. Choleric tends to be the easiest temperament to identify. Cholerics have strong reactions to stimuli–especially strong negative reactions. They hang onto their feelings for a long time. They are energetic, they speak their mind, and they are natural leaders.
I have made the first draft of a short checklist to see if your child is primarily choleric. If it is hard for you to determine if your child is choleric just by asking the two questions above, you’ll find this helpful. You can also use it for yourself.
Virtue and vices for cholerics
Cholerics have high ideals and the strength of will to meet them. From their first moments, they want to be famous. They may dream of being football players, movie stars, politicians, kings and queens, or great saints. We can use this natural desire to help them become saints. John the Baptist, the Apostle Paul, and Ignatius of Loyola were all primarily choleric.
Choleric children need to be taught humility and compassion, so that they don’t become tyrants. They need to recognize that they are not all-powerful or the center of the universe.
I am working with D to help him become a servant-leader. Since he loves contests, I have set one up to help him. Every time he goes out of his way to help his younger brothers out, he gets a point. When he reaches fifty points, I will let him have some leadership responsibilities over his brothers. I do not want him to be in charge of them, even for short times, until he has started learning that being a good leader does not mean lording it over others. Instead, a true leader must be a servant.
In these choleric temperament downloads I have the first draft of the checklist, plus pages to help you plan how to teach your choleric child humility and compassion. Feel free to copy them as you need to. You may also share them with others. Sometime next year I hope to have a more complete spiritual plan for your choleric child available for purchase.