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- Ms. Ilian

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Melancholic Child

We've all seen them: often pale, usually thin, serious in attitude. They can give the impression of carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders. These are the melancholic children. They tend to be responsible and deeply caring. Because of this they can easily become overwhelmed. Their thoughts are deep, their memory strong, and so we trust them, sometimes even rely on them. But in this we must be careful!

Anything you entrust to a melancholic child will be taken up with dedication and care. This child will follow your rules, and take steps to ensure that others follow them as well. He or she is deeply concerned with justice and fairness, and can become quite distraught if it appears that laws and standards are not being  administered equally. At the same time, the melancholic child will be ready to take on extra burdens beyond those born by others, which he or she will carry stoically as long as that service is recognized and appreciated. If it is not acknowledged, however, the melancholic child will point out, through gesture, word or deed, the unfairness of his or her situation.

Melancholic children tend to be extremely sensitive. They are easily hurt, both inwardly and outwardly. But they are also quick to empathize with others, recognizing their suffering, and coming to their aid if possible. They go through more band-aids and ice packs than any other children, only partly because they need them themselves. Indeed, many more are applied to the injuries of others.

The challenge of the melancholic child to the parent or teacher is to bring lightness to his or her experiences, and not to inadvertently overburden this child with responsibilities. Laughter is an excellent medicine for all children, but for the melancholic child it is essential. Nor does it hurt to include sweets in his or her diet. The injuries of body and soul must be taken seriously, but not too much so. There is much that can be done for a melancholic child by applying salves and teas, while turning his or her attention away from him or herself and towards others whom he or she can help in some way. Thus, if your child has fallen and bruised her knee, she can well be helped by a sympathetic word, and careful tending of the wound, followed by a joint effort to remove the root she tripped on, or, failing that, to involve her in creating a warning sign so others will not trip also.

Melancholic children are children of the earth. They love to tend to living things, and can be kept quite happy nurturing a garden plot, or caring for a pet. They love order, and you will have less trouble with keeping their rooms and other spaces clean and organized than with getting them to allow for spontaneity and controlled creative chaos. When melancholic children misbehave, it can be helpful to examine whether they might not be reacting to a perceived injustice, or to a disruption of the accepted order of things. By trying to understand what is upsetting these children, their behavior can often be understood and more easily corrected.

It is not difficult to find tasks appropriate for the melancholic child. In fact, one must take care not to give him or her too many responsibilities, and to allow rules to have some flexibility so he or she can live comfortably within the sphere of your expectations. The very young child can be in charge of keeping the shoes neat and tidy, standing like good friends with their toes to the wall. The slightly older child can be given the task of watering the thirsty plants or feeding the family cat or dog. Follow the principle of giving your melancholic child jobs that are nurturing, clearly valuable and important, and endowed with the qualities of responsibility and trust. If these elements are present in the tasks you assign, your child will rise to meet your expectation.

And so, in dealing with your melancholic child remember: be understanding and sympathetic while helping him or her to look outward towards others; give meaningful responsibilities and trust; bring light and sweetness to your child in whatever way you can and as often as you can.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Choleric Child

Full of fiery energy, the choleric child is often the one that parents and teachers find the most challenging to work with. They are thin skinned, quick to outbursts of emotion. People around them often experience them as intense, oppositional or angry. What, the adults who care for them ask, is going on inside these children? What can we do to control and help them?

Fire is the element of the choleric child. Like the phlegmatic child, the choleric child has an active metabolism. But unlike the Phlegmatic child whose energy is stored for later use, the choleric child's energy is expressed as heat and activity. Parents might find it difficult to keep clothes on this child. Teachers frequently observe beeswax crayons melting in this child's hands as she works. Whatever grabs the imagination of the choleric child is pursued with vigor, and when roused, her temper may flare suddenly. However, like a fire, if the emotion or effort is not fed, it will quickly die out, leaving nothing but the ashes of that which inspired it. If the choleric child, roused to sudden anger, is left alone until the emotion has run its course, she will likely have difficulty remembering what exactly sparked the outburst. Similarly, the choleric child, inspired with an idea, will embark vigorously on a project. But if she does not meet success and encouragement, she will quickly become discouraged and lose interest.

It is this quick rise and fall of emotions and interests, and the intensity surrounding the choleric child that parents and teachers, and even other children find challenging to face. Take, however, a step back and really observe this child of fire, because when he feels understood, you will have a loyal ally and friend.

Like the wood and coal that fuels a fire, the body of the choleric child, particularly the limbs, often appears sturdy and thick, but not soft. When he walks, his feet land firmly on the ground, and he is likely to wear out the heels of his shoes before he outgrows them. He takes pride in his strength and physical capabilities and loves to test them out against his friends in a variety of physical challenges from throwing a baseball to wrestling and fighting. You might find that the choleric child enjoys spicy foods, dislikes being wet, speaks loudly, and focuses intensely on a single thing, though he can't sustain the focus over a prolonged period. For this reason both baseball and football are good sports for this child with their alternating periods of intense activity and relative inaction.

Like the fire's flame, the choleric child is quick and forceful and mobile in his thinking and emotions. This can be either scary and destructive, or heartwarming, and creative. It is all a matter of proper channeling. The choleric child tends to act first and ask questions later, and often does not have a realistic concept of his effect on those around him. He will be the inspiration for action and will be the hardest worker in the group at the beginning, but will not have the patience to sustain an ongoing activity or project. Although he may not be what is usually considered a "good team player", he is necessary to a team to spark ideas and get projects off the ground. He works very well alone as well, especially when given a task with a clear goal and ending point. It is not hard work that the choleric finds difficult to face; it is the inability to see the conclusion, the culmination of the effort.

How then to manage your fiery child? Give her hard, useful, responsible work with clear beginnings and endings. Let your child chop wood, tend the fire, carry bags, and dig the garden. Give her household jobs whose results are immediately visible, such as putting things away (especially if some heavy lifting is included). All you need to do is say, "I need someone strong..." and your choleric child will volunteer.
Inevitably, though, there will be explosions of temper from time to time when your child's efforts are thwarted, or she feels unappreciated. During an outburst, the only effective thing you can do is put the child somewhere where she is safe, and others are not affected by her outbursts. It helps to have a designated place for your child to be during an outburst, such as her room. In time she will send herself there to ride out the storm of emotion. During this time it is best not to interact with the child at all, if possible. No matter what offenses pour from the child during this time, it is best not to engage, but to let the fire burn itself out. Once the fire has cooled and only the glowing embers remain, you can speak with the child, listen to her, help her achieve some perspective, and reintegrate her into the society of her family. She may very well be embarrassed by the event, and even reluctant to leave the room, having become quite self-conscious about her recent behavior. If you can get the family to act as if nothing happened, or, better yet, get the child to laugh, all will be well. Of course, if your child caused some sort of hurt or destruction, retribution must be made. But if you wait until your child has regained her equilibrium, she will be able to see the fairness of it, and the apology and retribution will come from the heart. Later your child may remember clearly how angry she was, but may not be able to pinpoint just exactly how that came to be. The memory of the event was burned up in the explosion - but any consequences she suffered will remain with her and help to guide her the next time.