Helping your choleric child grow in holiness

Choleric, Sanguine, Melancholic, and Phlegmatic. Each of us has one of these as our primary temperament. Some have a strong or weak secondary temperament as well.

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

choleric temperament downloads

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.

Connie Rossini

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Hi, I'm a Catholic writer and homeschool mother of four boys. I practice Carmelite spirituality. Check out my Books page for publications to help your whole family grow in holiness.

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7 Responses

  1. Amy

    I love this idea of a spiritual growth plan based on temperament. Do you plan to do the other temperaments soon?

    • Connie Rossini

      Hi, Amy. I am just starting to work with my kids on this. I started with the choleric temperament, because that is the temperament of my eldest child and it’s also the one that I find most difficult to get along with! I have done a few things with my melancholic and phlegmatic/sanguine sons, but not as much yet. I hope to get all four temperaments completed in the next several months. Since I just published a book and now have lots of marketing to do, I’m going to need a little break before I focus too much on the next project. My house and kids both need my attention (not in that order). Stay tuned and I’ll try to post some updates in the next month or so to let readers know how the project is going.

      • Alethea

        Any chance you’ve written on the other tempraments now? And where could I find it? I’m at a loss but your thoughts and ideas are super helpful!

        • Connie Rossini

          Hi, Alethea. I have finished the book on the phlegmatic temperament. I am working on the melancholic, with the sanguine to come some time next year. You can buy it here on Amazon: (affiliate link). My “Connie’s Books” tab has links to other online retailers for all my books. Thanks for your interest. I hope the books help you raise godly children.

  2. Jen

    I just found your blog and am very thankful. I am struggling with my Choleric 9 yr old son, and appreciate your downloads. Do you have more specific suggestions for materials to use and ways to help the Choleric? I am feeling overwhelmed by his temperament while also caring for my other four children (ages 7,4,3,1). I feel that I spend over 80% of my time and energy on him, and yet the other children need my attention as well. Thank you, and God bless you.

    • Connie Rossini

      Jen, I am glad to help out. I have a very similar dynamic here. Some things that are working for us:

      Let him help around the house to earn extra money. This will use up some of his energy and save some of yours.
      Let him work independently. I’m not sure if you homeschool. D likes to be in charge of his own school day as much as I will let him. He whizzes through his studies so he can get outside. Then I can focus on the others. You can do this with his housework as well.
      Teaching him to think before speaking is a really tough one. One thing we have tried a few times is saying, “If you don’t think before you speak, you have to think after you speak.” In other words, if he lashes out with his tongue, he then has to write a short essay explaining why what he said was wrong and what he could have chosen to do differently. I am hoping that over time, he’ll start thinking of these things more immediately.
      I have also set a time limit on how long he can play sports with his brothers daily. Otherwise, he needles them in to playing when they don’t really want to and we end up with fights or tantrums. Similarly, I have stopped letting him designate who has which job at clean up time. We have too often ended up with him getting off easier than everyone else.
      In some areas I have just learned to give in a little. He loves watching the NFL. My husband and I do not. But if I sit in front of the TV with him each Sunday (so I can monitor the awful commercials), I can do some minor paperwork, and that’s three hours almost conflict-free.
      We are also reading a lot of stories in The Moral Compass for examples of behavior by cholerics.

      We are really focusing our attention on this right now, so I hope to have some more ideas in the next few months.

  3. Anne

    Hi Connie, my FSSP pastor recently told my husband that our oldest son (he is our 2nd child of 7) is choleric. My husband looked it up and found your book and I’ve already read a lot of it. You describe our son perfectly. When he was very young I thought there was something wrong w him until I realized this was who he is and that I needed to work with him as he is and not try to exert my will on him. He has a lot of energy but he is also very artistic and spends a lot of time drawing and making things with his hands (he is very creative)and he doesn’t like to be in front of people so I’m not sure what part of this is outside of choleric but he seems so bored when we pray the rosary or at Holy Mass. We read the teachings of the saints everyday to our children and he always listens but lately he has been asking me to read on Hell which I have done but I don’t want to focus on hell so much as on the love of God. I don’t know what his motives are. He is my toughest when it comes to obedience. So many questions…it’s hard to describe much on a website.
    Thank you for all your work in this.

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