Parenting a Choleric Child

Meet my daughter, Elizabeth. She was an adventuresome baby, energetic, precocious, bright and wide-eyed. The moment she let out her first, loud cry, I knew she was going to be the ‘leader’, that she was going to set the pace of the family, and most of the time, she did (as a Phlegmatic mother, most of the time I just ‘give in’ to avoid further confrontation).

She is now a very daring and eager four years old. She is a productive worker, always busy (she asked if she could go to the pre-school Monday-Friday full time, probably because there’d be people and friends and things that would keep her constantly going instead of spending a day with a boring Phlegmatic mother like me!). She moves quickly, self-sufficient, very competitive, assertive and trustworthy. She knows how to show temper tantrums, to ‘get’ her own way insistently. She certainly knows how to test and to argue, not to mention her stubborness (I learned not to give her the word ‘NO’ as it seems to encourage her even more).

I love her to bits, and I’m not trying to put her characters in a box so I can label her. This is naturally who she is. These traits run in her bloods. Knowing and understanding these traits help us both in our relationship. With her secondary personality as a Sanguine, she is a strong extrovert. She loves attention, she craves affection, her love language is touch (plenty of cuddles), rejection hurts her, being ignored annoys her. She is innocently trusting everyone, including strangers (she warms up to people quickly, especially when she starts to tell you her tale and you showed interest, that’s it, she’d be taken completely). She is a chatter and she bounces back quickly. She is, what some people would call, a charismatic leader. She has followers and she loves it! One day I dropped her at pre-school a little later then usual. By the time we got there, nearly all the other children were already there (we were usually the first). As Elizabeth walked into the room, all her friends (including the littlest ones) ran to her to talk to her. She had this big smile on her face, as if their action had made her day. I compared this to other days when we arrived earlier, and suddenly it clicked to me the expression she usually gave as she walked into an empty room. She was a bit upset that nobody there to ‘greet’ her. I decided to arrive slightly later ever since (altough it bothers me that we’re slightly late – this is my Melancholic part who always worry about punctuality!).

I am a Phlegmatic with a secondary personality as a Melancholic. This means I am a strong introvert. Putting this into an analog, Elizabeth and I are like the south and the north poles of this earth. She is everything I am not, and I am everything she is not. These extremeties is the factors that would attract two individuals in a chemistry (aka the lovey dovey) relationship. It certainly has its advantage in our parent-child relationship. She made a lovely company and I can speak to her as if she’s a grown up. She would play contently on her own while I get on with my work. She cheers me up with her constant chatters and singing. At the same time, she drains me (being a mother is draining anyway, but if you are a Phlegmatic mother, the feeling is more intense, and if you have a choleric child, it’s doubled!). The most draining part of parenting is, of course, setting up boundaries. Elizabeth would constantly push and test. As a choleric, she can sense whenever I’m in the mood of ‘do whatever you like, as long as you would leave me alone’! She can be certain that she’d get her own way. To set the boundaries, I have to think as a choleric person, I have to be a choleric person, in order to understand how to get around her, and at the same time not making her feel as I treat her differently from her brother.

Jonathan is a Melancholic-Phlegmatic, like myself but his Melancholic personality is stronger. It comes natural to me to interact with him, since we both are strong introvert. It’s so straightforward to set boundaries for him, he doesn’t need many in the first place as his sense of order is already strong, he knows right from wrong. I’m comparing my children’s personality, not to favour any, but instead to make sure my treatment to them is personal yet equal at the same time, and they know that.

I learned that, if I want to establish rules, I have to set it out clearly the moment I sense a mischieve is coming. For example, when Elizabeth was finally out of her buggy, she got super excited being able to sit on a proper seat on a bus. She sat on one seat, then she decided to move on to another. I allowed this. Then she decided to try another seat. By now I sensed, that if I didn’t set a boundaries straight away, I’d end up with a child out of control, on a public place, and maybe I’d end up shouting and she’s ignoring me, which would be embarasing. She’d pick up on this experience and do it again the next time. So, I picked her up quickly, sat her on my lap, and said ‘have a cuddle with Mummy’. This distracted her and she loves cuddle anyway. She wanted to go back to her seat and I gave her a condition, she could sit on her own as long as she stay seated on the seat she’s chosen. She usually would willingly follow a clear instruction given in a firm tone (followed by a praise or affirmation or a quick kiss). If it was Jonathan, I could just simply say that it is not the place to play. He’d sense it’s a wrong thing to do and he’d oblige sraightaway.

Parenting certainly has its ups and downs. I’m grateful for my children. I’m blessed with two little people of different temperaments; one is a natural leader and the other is a natural thinker. They both work together perfectly (until they start having too much of each other and needing some space, Jonathan more than Elizabeth). I certainly don’t have the knacks as a mother, far from it, there’s always something to learn everyday. I just do my best in raising them (with God’s help) and the rest is in God’s hand.

What about you? Apart from the ‘God’ stuff, how do you find the experience of parenting?

Changes

Welcome back to my blog. Last time I wrote, it was about our lovely time of holiday in July and now we are in October half-term! There have been many changes and the biggest of all was Jonathan started school.

At the beginning I thought I was ready for the change and I should sail through it smoothly, but it turned out to be a hard one. The truth is, no matter how expected a change is, it is never easy to go through one. 

Jonathan had a meltdown on day one at school. He strengthen his grip when he saw the class door opened and watched some children walking in, and their parents stayed outside. He shook his head while tears running down his cheek and he said ‘I don’t want to go in class’. He ran towards the gate but luckily the teaching assisstant quickly blocked his way. She tried to talk to him but I knew that in his state he wouldn’t listen to any reason. I had to walk away, not saying goodbye or any other words. I just walked out the gate (knowing he wouldn’t follow as the teaching assisstant had him). I needed him to watch me walking out on him. I needed him to know that I won’t even look back to check on him. I needed him to say to himself ‘This is mate! She’s gone and you have only yourself to deal with this’. I needed him to be able to let his survival instinct to take over.

I dislike myself greatly for walking out. I walked while telling myself I had failed the task; the task to help my son to cope with the big change. I asked myself what strategies I hadn’t try to prepare him. I blamed myself for being such an incompetent mother. I tried hard to keep my tears from running down while I had my haircut the same day. 

Jonathan seemed fine at pick up and I was glad that weekend was coming. Over the weekend I tried to talk to Jonathan again about school and he wasn’t sure of it still. Then Monday came, dropping off was fine, no tears, but meltdown in the dining hall. There was five other children who seemed didn’t cope well with dinner time. So the teacher decided the group to be picked up before dinner for that week.

I felt really bad that my child wasn’t as good as the other children coping with change. I started to worry if he would never cope with the change. He got away that week from dining hall, but he would still have to go the week after. I understand it was a big change for him, dining hall was a bit too crowded and too noisy for such a little person. Not to mention everyone else looks like a giant to him. The whole things that happening in the hall was too overwhelming and he felt lost. I completely understand what he felt but I felt hopeless nevertheless because I couldn’t find a way to help him with his fear and anxiety. 

He kept asking that week if he could go back to the nursery and I didn’t know how to respond to that request. He said he didn’t mind to go back being a baby again so he could go back to the nursery. Then something just clicked in my mind, the word ‘baby’! All of sudden I was able to visualise the problem in my head. It was ME! I hadn’t being so helpful by treating him like a baby and of course we don’t leave a baby at school. I need to change my mindset, the thought that he was still a baby. He’d still be my ‘baby’ no matter what is his age but as long as I don’t treat him as one because he isn’t one any longer.

The rest of that week I trained my mind that my son is a 4.5 years old child, a person who was ready to start school. I let go the ‘grip’ of my ‘baby’ and ‘file’ all the baby memories to one side of my brain. I learned to respect his needs and respect him as a nearly 5 years old boy.

I can’t provide the scientific proof of changing the mindset thing, but it worked! I suppose changing mindset helped with changing attitude. The week finished peacefully. I was happier and so was Jonathan. He was all smiley at drop off and pick up. The week after went really well too. He stayed for school lunch for three days and the rest of the week he started full time school with no fuss. He looked forward to school now. He loves wearing his school jumper. He loves school dinners. He loves his teachers. He loves his friends. He came home the other day proudly showed his first home work. He is starting to learn his letters and phonics. 

And there I was, watching him as a 4.5 years old rather than seeing him as a baby. I will treasure quietly the memories of him as a baby; whenever I walk the route I use to walk pushing the buggy with baby Jonathan in it. 

Jonathan and I has crossed a bridge in our mother-son relationship and as he grows older, there’ll be more bridges to cross. I will have to keep adapting my roles and I’m sure it will hit me hard, but I’ve learned to take the first step.

Understanding The Difference

Parenting has become a little challenging at the present. Our two years old girl has started to show her personality; extremely strong willed, extremely witful, restless, strong headed, energetic, impulsive, fearless and a little bit bossy! I am at the point of ‘driving up the wall’ when I remember that my favourite author, Florence Littauer, did write a book for parents about children personality. As it seems like my daughter and I would always drive each other nuts, perhaps we are exactly on the opposite poles of personality. So I ordered the book on Amazon and I can’t put it down since I received it! Reading some real-life case in the book made me giggle as it portraid exactly our parent-child relationship.

Now, some of you might say “Well, that’s what children are like” or perhaps saying “Oh she’s going through a phase, it’s called terrible two”. I can also hear you saying that “Parenting does not follow a book” which I agree as I got rid all books about baby-care. But I do believe that if parents would understand why their children behave the way they do, then there’ll be more harmony at home. I also hope that by learning my children’s temperament and personality I can help them to achieve their best potential rather than expecting them to be someone but themselves.

I personally do not believe every toddlers behave the same way or there’s such things as terrible two (or even three-nagers). I believe each of us was born with a main personality and my two-years old is trying to show me hers. What interest me, by showing up her personality, Lizzie is revealing her brother’s as well, as the complete opposite to hers. Jonathan is more thoughtful, sensible, calculating, observant, strive on schedule, perceptive and properly.

The concept of personality grouping has always been the center theme of all Florence’s books and my logic can accept easily the Greek theory about four main personalities: the two introverts Melancholic (the perfectionist)  and Phlegmatic (the  watcher) and the two extroverts Choleric (the doer) and Sanguine (the talker). 

My daughter, as I suspected, is a balanced combination of Choleric/Sanguine, nearly half and half, while I’m a balanced combination of Phlegmatic/Melancholic (nearly half and half too). It means while I am naturally driven by my temperament trying to keep the cleanliness and the tidiness and the order of the house, Lizzie’s temperament is all about having fun with no-end and no-limit and no-tidy. She demands constant attention, company, appraisal, hugs and kisses while Jonathan prefer to be given his own space and being left alone from time to time. Jonathan does play with his toys but he only taken out toys that he wanted to play with and he would put them away-ish after (if he’s not too tired), unlike his sister who would tip up every boxes and would tell me off if I start to put them away.

I thank God for Florence’s books. I read quite a few in the past to gain insight on people’s difference. This particular book starts its chapter by helping parents to recognise their own personalities and then ‘listen’ to their children. The book then carries on to the emotional needs each temperament and how, as a parent, we can satisfy those needs.
It has been an interesting reading so far. I’ll add few more lines when I finish the books.