When Temperament Collides: My Choleric Boys

I want you to meet my two oldest boys.

Aidan and Caleb.

Fire and Ice.

Introvert and Extrovert.

Super Academic and Super Social.

Total opposites.

Or so I thought, until I sat down with Connie Rossini's new book, A Spiritual Growth Plan for Your Choleric Child.  We have some strong personalities in this house, mom and dad included, and I am always looking for any good resource for helping us meld those personalities and dispositions into a cohesive and united front.

I thought I *knew* when I agreed to review the book that Caleb was my strongly choleric child and I was absolutely sure that I would be applying most of what I learned to my relationship with him.   The book's cover image of a lion cub is a very apt descriptor of Caleb.

He growls.

For real.

The more I read, however, the more confused I started to feel.  As I read through the first chapters it often felt like she was alternating between a description of Caleb and an equally accurate description of Aidan.  I started to realize that both boys could be described as very intense, they are just very intense about different things.   They are both absolutely sure that they are right, 100% of the time, with the first thought that pops into their mind.  Stopping either of them once they have set their mind to something is a lesson in futility and the source of much of the arguing and frustration that happens here on a given day.

Both are ready to pounce at a moment's notice at the suggestion of an injustice.

Both struggle with controlling their impulses.

I was confused before I started and I knew I needed to back up, so I printed off a copy of Determining Your Child's Temperament, also by Ms. Rossini, and went to work.

It turns out that Mr. C is primarily choleric with strong secondary temperament of being melancholic.   I think this comes largely from his introverted nature.   He is somewhat slower to build, probably because he has to decide if he really wants to "put himself out there", but once he's there his reactions are strong and long-lived.  Push certain buttons (serve him chicken, carrots, or eggs) and there is no building...he's just there.

At the same time, Mr. A. is also primarily choleric, although slightly more balanced with a secondary sanguine temperament.  In other words he is through and through a people person.  He wants to please people, but he also wants to simultaneously prove to everyone that he is right and knows all the answers.   

He talks.





Once I figured all this out, the rest of the book made a lot more sense.  In many ways, this is not a book you read through but rather a book to work through...moving forward and backward in a constant ebb and flow of deeper understanding.  An entire chapter was dedicated to the topic of helping the choleric child learn self-control.  Another chapter was devoted to sibling relationships.  

My favorite quote of the whole book... "If you have more than one choleric child, you have sibling rivalry on steroids."



I really don't know why with all I know about child development I never thought to look to these boys' similarities as the reasons behind their constant relationship struggles, but I didn't.  I guess I was so busy responding to the constant intensity of their relationship I never had a chance to slow down and think about it.

Now we are working on it.  


Mrs. Rossini includes a section of lessons to help the choleric child grow and ultimately build their leadership skills which are strong and a great asset for the choleric child.

Memory Verse in Copy form from WorksheetWorks.com
I chose to start with the lesson on humility, modeled after St. John the Baptist.   When we discussed "He must become greater.  I must become less." (which we all used as memory work and handwriting practice that week).  Caleb was quick to jump in with the literal definition of what that means, but it took a lot longer to get to what that actually would LOOK like.   We also made individual crests, an activity similar to one I published with Pocket's Magazine a few years ago.  (Which is totally irrelevant to this post, but you know one thing reminds me of another....)

Caleb working on his shield.  He wanted to put a monkey on the side of his shield because he loves to move and climb (he does!), but there wasn't room so he decided it would be better to be a tiger instead.  He was so proud of his finished work that he posted it on his bedroom door, where it still lives a month later.


I wonder if we had a lion stencil if he might have chosen it for himself?

I don't know that we have really made specific progress with the boys in their relationship, but we have been working with them separately on specific virtues as a direct result of the this book.  With Caleb we are working on controlling his temper.   Right now, for every 2 hours that he can control his temper he can have 10 minutes of *bonus* screen time on his iPad.   With Aidan we are working on servant leadership, using his love language of talking.  We point out opportunities, he makes suggestions, we try to notice when he does an example of it...stuff like that.

As an intentional parent in other areas of family life, being intentional with spiritual virtue development tailored to my children's strengths and weaknesses feels very natural.   Mrs. Rossini's book has sent us off on a bit of a new path, but one I am excited to continue exploring.  I heard a rumor on her Facebook page that she is working on the phlegmatic volume next.

Logan doesn't actually care if I read it or not.  

Maybe he'll figure out this growing up thing.

Or maybe he won't.

Logan-land doesn't really have time tables or rules or really any internal or important structure whatsoever.

I, on the other hand, can't wait to hear her suggestions for motivating the purely phlegmatic child!

Because while I may have been a little off in my initial temperament assessment of those first two boys, boy number three is as clear as they come!  

We call him the animal whisperer.


Diana said...

Great review! With four boys and crazy competitive spirit run amok, I get it, Sister!😊 and then mix in an emotional sanguine baby girl. Wowee, hurry up with those other books, Connie!!!!

Heidi said...

I definitely have an emotional sanguine girl slotted between the older boys and the younger phlegmatic one! She can handle the big boys one on one, but together? Not a chance! I'm slightly nervous because I think my youngest girl might be a choleric which I'm gonna guess is another crazy adventure waiting to happen. Even at only 2, she has some seriously spunky intensity!

Connie Rossini said...

Haha, Diana. I'm phlegmatic myself, so don't push me TOO hard! By the way, thanks for your review yesterday.

Heidi, it's really interesting to see how the different (or similar) temperaments can clash among siblings. I actually deal with lots of conflict between my pure choleric and my phlegmatic-sanguine child. The first always pushes, the second always resists. My pure melancholic child tends to "do his duty" by acquiescing to what his brothers want.