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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.

1 comment:

  1. Hello = Lovely to read your blog on Children with a Choleric temperament, whilst I understand at 4 ½ it is not necessarily developmental clear what sort of temperament a child has both myself from my reading and also my sons Steiner Pre-School teacher both think it is evident that our little boys has a Choleric Temperament. I must say at this age it is much easier for me at least I now have some reasoning power to work with at 2 it was just as strong with no real reasoning. Anyway he is beautiful and amazing at so many things we live a reasonably strong rhythm with a Steiner influence. He goes to a new Steiner Pre-School with a small number of children some even only 2 years old. And we are having issues with him pushing and hitting children if he doesn’t get what he wants from them. He also often gives other children very strong cuddles, I believe from the gesture it is intended to be a cuddle however is not welcomed by the other children. He is big, strong and loud! We are going to have a meeting this week with some meditation and reflection, we have been using some healing stories and talking about it at home a little. I am wondering if you know of any homeopathic remedies that may help him? I am in two minds as to just take him out thinking he is not ready, and not wanting to squash his temperament understanding it is not something to fix, but something to develop with. My concern is isolating him and not giving him the lovely experience he seems to have during most of the daily rhythm. Welcoming any suggestions, with love and light xxxx