Every individual child has his nature which will be similar throughout his life. A child may be formed, but he can be formed or can form himself only according to his nature, which is almost homoeostatic. This homoeostatic state can be called the constitution. The constitution is “what is” and the temperament is “what becomes”.
The Temperament of a child may change over time, and be affected by many external factors, such as the physical and emotional environment in which the child is raised, the illnesses to which they are exposed, vaccinations, drugs used, and so on.
The Sanguine Child
Let’s take a look at the Element of Air: It belongs to no one person or place, but is shared by all. Air is in constant movement itself and the cause of movement in other things. It is busy locally and travels far distances with ease. The sanguine child prefers to skip, or jump, or run on his toes rather than to walk. A delicate “taster” of food, with a bird’s appetite and a butterfly’s preference for sweetness, the sanguine child seems to be nourished more by his five senses than by his three regular meals.
The body opens itself to the air through its many orifices, and the sanguine child experiences the inner and outer worlds through all of them with equal devotion. His mouth will be more often open than shut (in complete contrast to the phlegmatic) and if not savoring words and sounds will be well occupied with licking fingers, nibbling pencils, chewing shirt collars or other obscure isometrics designed perhaps to develop mobility of expression or firmness of jawline, who knows? Not the sanguine child, for sure, who will be totally unaware that he was doing anything at all. The nose becomes a centre of intense activity, from the usual childish habits to use as a resting place for biros or the ends of pigtails, and then on to a sort of clearing house for smells of which the rest of us are happily unaware. All this, coupled with the birdlike movements of the eye shows us that the sensory world is never dull for the sanguine personality, which can present problems in the classroom. The wrong way to handle a sanguine child is to “sit” on him. He will only find a way of wriggling free and, most probably, like the air in a joke cushion, make a rude noise as he goes. The Sanguine’s creative spirit sees potential in every situation. The air is used by all weaves between individuals and whole nations an invisible web of relationships, and it is in making relationships that the sanguine personality excels. Not only does the child need to feel surrounded by many friends, (the thirst for company is a strong characteristic of this temperament), but the mature adult is able to develop a real gift for bringing other people, and also facts and ideas, into relationship. (1; 207)
A characteristic remedy for this temperament, as an example, could be… Sulphur
According to Paul Herscu N.D. Sulphur children tend to fall into one of four categories of temperaments: happy-go-lucky, irritable, hyperactive, or cerebral. Most common is the happy-go-lucky, smiling type. While some rare children needing Sulphur may be shy during the first visit, this shyness will usually only last for a few seconds or minutes at most before their natural curiosity takes over and they begin to explore both the office and the doctor. (2; 257) As the initial interview progresses or during follow-up interactions, the basically obstinate nature of the child becomes more evident. They have so much energy that it is often necessary to set limits for them while they are in the office. The doctor, nervous about the destruction of sensitive equipment and glassware or about having the office in total disarray, asks the child not to touch this or that, but the child continually tests the doctor’s patience. The child will push against such behavioral limits again and again, attempting to escape their confines. This is especially true of hyperactive Sulphur children. They nag at the doctor, asking why they cannot do whatever they wish. This type of obstinacy springs from the desire for freedom and the sense that it is absolutely necessary to let their inquisitiveness run wild. This stubbornness is seen even more vividly in the second type of Sulphur children: the nasty, irritable sort. These children have a negative attitude toward practically everything. (2; 259) It should be stressed that this irritable type is the rarest form of Sulphur. The hyperactive child is commonly cured with a prescription of Sulphur. The child has a great amount of energy, unstoppable by parents and teachers alike. Even the toddler shows this trait. The cerebral type seems to be more introverted and prefers to be alone and indulge in endless science fiction books or movies and tends to have only a few friends. They can be easily be taken as Nat. Mur., especially when this child does not want to be consoled and wants to be alone. The point is, the Sulphur child is typically all over the office, exploring everything, touching the pictures, pulling all the toys off the shelves, and generally making a mess of the office – something a sanguine temperament simply would do because it lies in his nature: in constant movement and seeing potential in every situation.
The Choleric Child
This temperament comes about when the Element of Fire has the upper hand in the constitution. The choleric temperament has the advantage, or the disadvantage, whichever way one may choose to look at it, of drawing its owner very much into the foreground socially. No one ignores a fire, its majesty captures everyone’s attention and people naturally gravitate towards it, grateful for its warmth and light perhaps, sometimes in awe of it, or simply mesmerized by its activity and its energy. This energy is the hallmark of the choleric child and cannot in any way be compared to the constant activity of the sanguine. Even at rest, the energy latent in the smoking coals is apparent in the clear, direct, penetrating gaze of the, often dark, eye. Other children are aware of this subtle force and usually defer to it. This is advantageous for the choleric child in that he can rise to his instinctive role as leader and allow full play for what he feels are his superior skills. With an audience to admire him and plenty of children around to be organized (at which he excels) the choleric child is supremely happy – as indeed is everyone else (on the good days, that is). On the bad days, he is rejected as being simply “bossy” which makes him utterly miserable and confused. This unfortunate state of affairs can occasionally lead to the child destroying a game or project from which he has been excluded just to “show them” that he still is the boss. But this uncontrolled raging of fire is rarer than it might be because the choleric child has a very keen sense of fair play and is a prompt critic of injustice wherever he sees it. Fire is quick to come to life and can also be speedily put “out”. In the heat of his enthusiasm the choleric child is often careless of the finer feelings of others, but when his own soul is wounded he feels this deeply, and his inner flame is doused. It is difficult for other temperaments to appreciate that the choleric needs to feel superior, and is most at ease and works best when he is secure in this position. The tenseness of the choleric, and his overwhelming frustration when things don’t work out his way leads to obvious social difficulties, but these are balanced out by his ability to generate warmth in a group. (1; 211)
A characteristic remedy for this temperament, as an example, could be…
Two distinct types of behavior can be observed in Lycopodium children. In one type, fear and apprehension affect every aspect of the child’s life. In the other, the child is bossy to the point of being dictatorial and strives to control those close by, be they parents, siblings, or friends. For instance, in a mother-son relationship, the child, not the adult, controls the relationship. Furthermore, it is as if all members of the family have become the Lycopodium’s inferiors, there only to meet the little tyrant’s needs and gratify his whims. And trust me, I am speaking from personal experience with my own son who seems to be a true choleric with a Lycopodium Constitution and gets in trouble at home and school due to the fact that he is so “bossy and dictatorial”, which of course shows tendency to leadership. From these brief initial observations, the doctor can deduce the major thematic elements that will shape the behavior of Lycopodium people throughout their lives.
Herscu says, “To restate the characteristics of the Lycopodium psychology mentioned thus far, we may safely say that the children fear being alone and being around new people and situations.” However, these children may develop a love of power and therefore a conscious decision is then made to have only people around who they can control, since this gives them a feeling of power. Because the feeling of power allays insecurities, it becomes addictive to Lycopodium children, and they develop what can be found in Kent’s Repertory as a rubric: Mind; Power, love of. This desire for power is strong and takes many forms. One may hear parents complain of the headstrong, cranky Lycopodium who controls the household. The ‘love of power’ syndrome will also manifest in the manner in which the child plays. A Lycopodium child with this trait often prefers to play with younger children so that he will be “king”. He can then decide what and how they will play, give directions, and set the tone for all events. (2; 60)
The Phlegmatic Child
To study the Element of Water, or fluid quality, as we are aware of it in nature, can be of help in trying to understand the phlegmatic Temperament. Consider first a droplet of water – smooth, round, completely self-contained, a little world all of its own. There sits the phlegmatic child engrossed in a toy, or maybe his fingers only, impervious to pleas to get dressed for a walk, or to come and meet the visitor. His chubby form gives the impression of an extra layer of softness all over him concealing the boniness of his skeleton, and in complete contrast to the melancholic physique. His often very pale eyes are like tranquil pools of water, peaceful and happy, so calm sometimes that one can wonder if anything ever ruffles the surface of his soul – is he perhaps even “lacking” in some way?
Outer tranquillity enables an inner dance to develop undisturbed, while the glass-like surface of the water, unruffled by outer influences, allows the possibility of ordered reflection. The ability to reflect on life’s questions is one of the talents of a mature phlegmatic temperament, if he has become interested in doing so. There lies the rub. It is often difficult to capture the interest of the phlegmatic. The melancholic person feels his isolation acutely, but a phlegmatic feels most comfortable when left to himself, his maxim is “anything for a quiet life” which may often become the excuse for profound laziness.
The lymph system is the chemist in us, gathering in, distributing, eliminating, regulating, and it naturally needs substances upon which to work. These substances come in the form of food and drink. One of the first observations a parent is likely to make of his phlegmatic child is his friendship with food. The strong instinct for order, born out of the regulating nature of the lymph system, can be a boon to the mother of a phlegmatic child, for this makes him, already at an early age, a wonderful “tidy-upper”. Even through the teenage years a certain neatness and order about his person is likely to remain.
The apparent lack of originality is the mainstay of the phlegmatic’s social talent for stability. (1; 205)
Suggested remedy for this particular temperament, which I will use as an example, is… Pulsatilla
Easily we can see the Pulsatilla youngster’s gentle, clingy, fearful nature. The first characteristic noticed about these children is how close they sit to their parents in the doctor’s office. From infancy through the teen years the child is oversensitive and cries easily. Eager-to-please is another characteristic, these children are very friendly within an intimate, familiar group such as the family, showing and needing lots of affection. The Pulsatilla child finds out early how to get what she or he wants by being affectionate, yielding, and submissive – essentially by producing whatever behavior it takes to win the attention and security so craved.
Emotions flow freely in the Pulsatilla child, especially in the form of sadness and tears. The tears that so easily flow help the child both physically and emotionally. Any time the child is angry, sad, irritable, frustrated, or perhaps just teased by siblings or parents, he breaks down and sobs; this is an act that renders him great psychological relief. (2; 224) Emotions are connected with the theme ‘water’ and therefore relates to the phlegmatic child very well.
The Melancholic Child
From the earthy element, or mineralizing quality at work in the world, we can build up an impression of how the melancholic temperament works within the human being. Picture to yourself a rock lying on the sandy beach, alone, self-contained, hard and cold to the touch, very still and seemingly unmoved by what goes on around, weighed down by its own mass, sinking slightly into the ground below. A rock speaks to us of ancient times, and the melancholic child often appears before us as “a little old man”. The face is pale and the gaze of the child is veiled as if the eyes, although open to the world are, in fact, gazing inward. A dreaminess is there, expressed occasionally in a sigh. No child is still for long, but the very melancholic child will not enjoy energetic games as much as those pastimes which require inward activity – drawing, listening to stories, writing poetry. The inwardness of the melancholic accounts for his isolation, the inability, often, to relate harmoniously to others. At times such a child may become the butt for childish humor, the unfortunate victim of practical jokes which cause him deep unhappiness.
Once the rock has warmed through by the midday sun, however, then its isolation can be alleviated, for its company is sought by birds and animals looking for a quiet place to “be”. Long after the sun has gone down, such a rock will continue to give out a gentle heat to the comfort of its immediate environment, and is considered by all a blessing. So we look for ways in which we can warm a melancholic child both physically with extra warm clothes, cooked food, maybe a hot water bottle in bed, and also warm his soul with encouragement, understanding and sympathy, confirmation of his being, persuasive enthusiasm and very gentle humor. This little rock cannot “give” to the knocks of life and he therefore will feel all the bumps and bruises, and tweaking of the hair as you comb, really more than his siblings and allowances should be made accordingly. (1; 203)
A characteristic remedy for this temperament, as an example, could be… Calc-carb.
Calcarea carbonica children discover early in life that they are slower than others their age. During play, they find themselves slow at games and sports – perhaps to the extent that other children taunt and laugh at them. To avoid this ridicule, they may become quiet, withdrawn loners who play by themselves and do not seek out friendships with others. In Calc-carb., the turning inward accompanied by a sense of self-assurance allows them to become self-reliant. This self-reliance is illustrated by the child who can be left for an hour to play alone while his mother cleans the house. An ability to change their minds quickly is characteristic of Calc-carb. toddlers. They are self-willed and desire to do things at their own pace and at a time of their own choosing. Obstinacy is a major clue to the remedy. Obstinacy is a sign of the basically strong character of the child. One can also observe this in the interview. The children look directly at the doctor with a strong, serious stare rather than relating with the shyness of a Lycopodium or the timidity of a Pulsatilla They just sit quietly, looking directly at the doctor. Another keynote is that the child is independent by nature. This individuality combined with slowness can benefit the Calc-carb. child as it often leads to very deep and lengthy concentration, even in the very young. Sadness and seriousness may also be major factors of the Calc-carb. personality.
In my observations over the years as a mother and homoeopathic practitioner I realised that not only does “like cure like” but also, “like attracts like” and can be considered as true.
Though H.A. Roberts states that prescribing on types, or temperaments, is at best a slack method of using the blessings of Homoeopathy and refers to it as keynote prescribing, I disagree with him on that and feel that the individual temperaments seem to attract certain constitutional remedies fitting the totality of symptoms. Knowledge of these different types can be of value in practical prescribing in the treatment of children.
I am suggesting that a particular Temperament can lead to a characteristic remedy. But of course there is not only one characteristic remedy for a particular temperament but many more to choose from taking the totality of symptoms of the individual child into account.
(1) Davy, Gudrun & Voors, Bons, (1987), Lifeways
(2) Herscu, Paul (1991), The Homoeopathic Treatment of Children