SummaryYour sanguine child needs help staying on task so provide structure, set clear expectations, and treasure his friendliness, enthusiasm, and love of fun.
In The Temperament, God Gave Your Kids: Motivate, Discipline, and Love Your Children, Art and Laraine Bennett discuss the four classic temperaments of human beings—choleric, melancholic, sanguine, and phlegmatic. According to the Bennetts, when we identify these temperaments in our children, we are better equipped to raise and educate them.
When introducing the sanguine personality, the Bennetts offer these initial observations: “The sanguine child is eager, bright, sensitive, funny, fun-loving, and enthusiastic. In short, the life of the party and the center of attention. He is a quick learner, equally quick to react, and rarely bears a grudge…Fun and attention are prime motivators.”
That description perfectly fits my second son.
As a child and teenager, Jon Pat made every day a new adventure, both for himself and for my wife and me. He embraced the world and those around him and sought out entertainment wherever he could find it. He was daring, kept his siblings in stitches with his humorous take on life, and as a teen loved hanging out with his buddies.
Meanwhile, JP, as his friends called him, often shocked my wife and me by his misadventures. One example will suffice. Once Kris and I were sitting in the kitchen talking with a friend when 10-year-old Jon Pat walked past us holding one hand over his mouth. “Everything okay?” I asked.
“I’m just going upstairs for a while,” he mumbled.
About an hour later, he passed back through the kitchen, still covering his mouth.
“Okay,” I demanded. “Let’s have a look.”
With great reluctance, Jon Pat removed his hand and revealed a bloody mouth with two teeth knocked slightly sideways. He had tried to jump his bicycle from the back deck to the driveway and smashed face-first into the gravel.
But here’s the real kicker: the dentist gave Jon Pat the remote to the television and told him to pick a show he wanted to watch. While the dentist repaired his teeth, Jon Pat happily entertained himself by watching dirt bikers roaring over hills and shooting over fences.
Make Learning Fun
As an adult, Jon Pat has retained this sanguine personality. He deeply loves his Catholic faith and his family, he loves getting together with friends, and I can’t remember the last time I saw him down or depressed. He’s also very successful in sales for a software company, no doubt a further reflection of his enthusiasm for life.
Particularly in regard to the education of this sanguine son, I wish now I’d possessed the Bennett’s wisdom about temperaments. Here is what The Temperament God Gave Your Kids suggests for home educators:
“If you are homeschooling, be aware that sanguines will enjoy art projects, kitchen science projects, field trips, going to the library for story hour, supermarket trips for applied math, museums, firehouses, and so on. Make learning fun.”
My wife and I offered our children some of these things—story hour at the library, field trips, some kitchen science lessons—but for the most part Jon Pat, like his siblings, did most of his schoolwork seated at a table.
Learning the Hard Way
Art and Larraine Bennett also remind us that our sanguine children “simply cannot contain their enthusiasm for new adventures, new friends, new fashions, or new toys.” In terms of discipline, then, we need to “set limits and expectations ahead of time.”
“Be forewarned,” the Bennetts tell us. “The sanguine temperament is the most likely to learn from experience—in other words, the hard way—and the least likely to simply abide by the rules or take a parent’s advice at face value.” When he was a teenager, Jon Pat enjoyed the music of DC Talk, and their song, “The Hard Way,” with its refrain, “I have to learn the hard way,” might have served as his anthem. Trouble came his way on several occasions but in college, he straightened up and found the right path.
Our sanguine young people are also easily distracted and need help staying on task. Sent to clean their rooms, for example, you may find young Sam playing with the Legos he’d forgotten were under the bed and his older brother texting a friend. These distractions are rarely signs of rebellion or disobedience; it is simply in the nature of sanguines to seek out entertainment.
Provide order and structure for your sanguine child, the Bennetts tell us, set clear expectations, and encourage him to choose his friends wisely, but treasure his friendliness, enthusiasm, initiative, and love of fun.