Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Temperament God Gave Your Kids: Not A Parenting Book

Following is my monthly column that appears in the print Catholic Post.  I invite your feedback here, or elsewhere online. 

In May, I like to focus on books that could potentially make great Mother’s Day gifts.  But while I love to read all sorts of parenting books, I hesitate long and hard before recommending them.  There are just so many varied ways to be a great Catholic parent.

Fortunately, The Temperament God Gave Your Kids: Motivate, Discipline and Love Your Children by Art & Laraine Bennett is not a parenting book.  Rather, it’s an explanation of the classical four temperaments, and how to work with those temperaments to have the best possible relationship with your kids, whatever your parenting style.  I truly enjoyed this book, and the Bennetts’ no-nonsense, kind approach to working with your child’s-and your own-temperament .

The Bennetts write not just as counselors, but fellow parents.  They have written two previous Temperament books, but I think this is their most mature effort.  You can easily glean your own temperament, as well as that of your loved ones, by reading this book (and taking the one-page  back-of-book temperament quiz).

Briefly, the four temperaments are: choleric (strong-willed & determined); melancholic (quiet & introspective);  sanguine (eager & sociable); and  phlegmatic (cooperative & peaceful).

When I strong-armed encouraged every member of our family to complete the quiz, I found that our temperaments were pretty much as expected.  Most helpful, though, was learning how these temperaments interact in a positive or negative way, and suggestions for a different way of looking at my role as a mom.   That means I treat a melancholic child differently than a sanguine or choleric child, all within my own parenting style.

The Bennets write: “Parents will find it far easier to help their children grown emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually when they build on their children’s natural strengths.”  Amen to that.

Once you understand your temperament and those of your kids (and spouse), you will be nodding along with the chapters describing slightly different you might want to parent, and also nodding along with their sage advice.

Those who know me are aware that when it comes to parenting/self-help books, I am a great fan of the numbers types of books—the five love languages, the seven habits of happy families, and the like.  What’s different—and better—about The Temperament book is the Bennett’s Catholic sensibility.  They promote knowing about the temperament in order to work with nature, instead of prescribing a “one size fits all” parenting philosophy.

I also especially loved the chapter “Growing in Virtue” which lists the virtues that come easy to each of the temperaments and ones that “need work.”  Having that information is so helpful in helping our children reach their full potential.

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