We’ve been exploring temperament in our Thinking Feeling Willing program and I have also been teaching monthly workshops locally to our participants here in Utah. Last month we dug deeper into temperament – but for parents.
I am often asked “how do I reach my child?” Many parents are looking for a magic bullet that will help them to better communicate with their child. Often that magic bullet is YOU. We have talked about rhythm being tied to you in our Thinking Feeling Willing sample – parenting is the same. When we take the time to study temperament for ourselves as well as our children, then we can really work to understand what our parenting gifts and weaknesses are.
First, I recommend you work to understand temperament as a whole, we have a great description in our grade one curriculum, in our Coming to Waldorf Late guides and also Steiner’s bit on temperament is wonderful.
When examining our own temperament, we can see where we need to balance. If we are phlegmatic and are working hard to cultivate our will then we might be struggling with getting moving each day. It might be hard to get up from that computer or put that book down. Going for a walk might be a huge struggle for us each morning. Holding a boundary we have set might be hard if we are being badgered by a choleric or sanguine child or teen. We have to work to build up that will of ours. The will of a phlegmatic isn’t as strong as others, it should be our striving to find that happy medium. Where are you comfortable and really able to hold the space. You don’t have to become a choleric parent; you just draw on that part that lives in you. It takes practice. You know that once you get going on something you can put your all into it – find that place within you for your parenting. Practice giving firm boundaries and work to keep them. Recognize it when you do well.
If you are a sanguine parent, I sympathize! LOL, kidding, I am partially there too. We have plenty of will and we are great planners, but sometimes we lack the follow through. The follow through is what we need in parenting – especially after the age of 9! Those pre-teens and teens will give you reasons to set all sorts of boundaries, but what good are they if we forget them? LOL. I decided to start writing them down. I am working on my will with Steiner’s exercises all the time (these are GREAT! We have a wonderful breakdown in our inner work eBook Treasures from My Path.) I work to build up my memory by memorizing verses along with my kids, committing a new hymn to memory each week or by remembering to do the same action daily. Rhythm is great for us sanguines as it gives us a great boundary to keep for ourselves. We are working to tame that will as we seem to have an over abundance of it. Reading only one book at a time or working on only one handwork project at a time would be helpful – follow through! **Now I proposed this to a dear friend the other day and she freaked, lol *wink* so we decided no more than 3 books at a time!** Remember that you are striving for balance – do things that would help you in your weak areas – even if they don’t seem fun.
Melancholic parents have another challenge, while they too can have a low amount of will; they have the added struggle of wanting to retreat. If this is you, my heart goes out to you. It can be so frustrating to have someone like me (Ms. Choleric/Sanguine) tell you to get up off your hiney and buck up! You just want to smack me when I recommend getting up before your children. You might often think that it works for everyone else but you and it is overwhelming to see everyone else do such a good job when you are struggling. Again, my heart goes out to you. This CAN work for you. I promise. Melancholic parents can often get blown over by their children because they are afraid to set too many boundaries and when they do set them, they are continually worrying they were too harsh. So what to do? Start with a conscious plan to work on your will. This might be a struggle if you have gotten out of balance or lived out of balance your whole life. Your natural state will be to get upset and give up and be angry. Work gently on yourself, but do work. Make a plan or contact me and let me help you make a plan. Your goal should be balance. It takes continual striving to get there.
Now cholerics I can pick on a bit *wink* I spent a good part of my life as an unbalanced choleric. As I became a parent this blended with sanguine, now I can safely say I am striving daily toward balance. Not there totally, but a work in progress. I can chill with my husband, run shopping with my daughter, sympathize with my son and still make sure everyone gets fed and my house isn’t destroyed. The choleric in me can keep all of that together and as I have balanced more, I find myself enjoying those things much more than even 5 years ago. The struggle of the choleric parent is to stay present and not get caught up in the idea that you can get it all done faster if they would just all move out of the way and let you do it! For you… bake with them. Play a board game with them. Bake some more. Let them have control over the flour – yes, the 3 yr old! Let them help you sweep. BREATHE. Your instinct is to take the broom and do it yourself. Remember, you were called to Waldorf for a reason. Take it all in. Let it soften you. Enjoy the experience. You might also struggle with boundaries that are too rigid. Firm boundaries are good; just make sure they are age appropriate.
Now what about your partner? This can be harder. You’ll want to really think about what you love about your partner and remember that you are working to be on the same page. If your partner is phlegmatic or melancholic you could struggle with getting them to join in the family fun, pulling them from their book or the computer – they may be hard to help with the boundaries so you’ll for sure want to have a plan together. If your partner is sanguine then they may be quick to anger and quick to forget so you’ll likely have help with boundaries but they won’t want to stick to them over time so you’ll have to work to balance each other. Now if you are married to a choleric… you may feel like you are constantly the peace maker. Helping your partner to release excess stress and find proper ways to parent will be the key in cultivating the home life you want. Remember that there are strengths in all the temperaments! Call upon the strengths when appropriate, work to build up the things that you’d like to see more of.