When I was eight I coveted the Barbie Dream House. I already owned the Barbie Jet and felt that Barbie needed a place to return to after her travels. I knew the approximate size of the house and was thrilled to see a box of similar size underneath the Christmas tree. This was the year that I was going to get the gift of my dreams. On Christmas morning I rushed into the living room and headed straight for that box. When my parents gave the signal, I tore away the wrapping paper. I stared at it for several seconds trying to figure out why my Barbie Dream House box had a picture of a bookshelf on it. Still hopeful, I opened the box. Now I had to figure out why someone would put that same bookshelf inside my box. This was not the Barbie Dream House. What happened to my dream?
Raising children can be just like opening gifts on Christmas morning.
Sometimes we get what we expect and sometimes we do not. As new parents we believe that our child will think and act in the same way that we do. When he does, parenting can be relatively easy since we understand how his mind works, how to motivate him, and what comes easy for him. But when that child is your complete opposite, parenting gets tougher. Why can’t he focus? Why is she so shy? Why is he so demanding? We want to fix him by correcting his thinking, attitudes, and approaches to life so he can become more like us. Aren’t our children lucky to have us?
And yet God made each one of us unique.
In 400 BC Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine noticed those differences. He developed a theory of behavior known as the four temperaments that explained personality differences. He categorized people as either the powerful choleric, popular sanguine, perfect melancholy, or the peaceful phlegmatic. Each temperament is pre-wired with specific strengths and weaknesses. Our children have character traits that are as good as the Barbie Dream House and as disappointing as a bookshelf. The popular sanguine (the talker) is cheerful, funny, and loves people and yet is restless, unfocused and forgetful. My sanguine daughter could not remember my Dad’s name (Grandpa) and so she called him “Mr. Grandma”. The powerful choleric (the doer) is a born leader who is organized and confident. At the same time, the choleric can be bossy, impatient and unsympathetic. The perfect melancholy (the thinker) is serious, analytical, and thoughtful. Most artists and musicians come from this temperament and in addition to their many talents and creativity, they will often be negative, moody, and sensitive. Finally the peaceful phlegmatic (the watcher) is easy going, content and patient as well as stubborn, lazy and unmotivated. Which temperament or blend of temperaments is your child?
It is unlikely that your child possesses the exact combination of your character traits which is why it can be so difficult and frustrating to understand his behavior. For example, a serious melancholy mom may not understand the silliness of her sanguine son. This can lead to confusion and feelings of inadequacy as a parent. In response to her emotions this mom may judge her son’s behavior as less than acceptable and move to change it.
The goal of mothering is not to fix or judge the temperament of our child. Instead we are called to recognize and emphasize the positive traits of his unique temperament.
The more we understand our child’s strengths and weaknesses, the better equipped we are to provide the tools he needs to grow into the person that God intended him to be. Taking the time to grasp what makes our child tick can help us to see beyond the wrapping of the present and appreciate the beautiful gift of our child inside.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
Which temperament or blend of temperaments are your children?
By Dale Skram
Mom of four
1 Corinthians 13 Parenting Team Member
real.life.speaker, real.faith.writer, and real.life.coach
She is a choleric mother to four girls (11, 13, 15, and 18). It took 30 years but she finally got her Barbie Dream House.