Book Review: The Four Temperaments May 23 2018

Helmut Eller’s new book, The Four Temperaments gives us a fresh new look at the four temperaments — sanguines, melancholics, cholerics, and phlegmatics. Eller goes into great depth in examining all the implications of the tendencies in youngsters (and in people) of one temperament or another, giving teachers and parents powerful means with which to reach children and to help them to find their way as they grow.

Raising and educating children is an endlessly creative activity. No matter how much we attempt to “standardize” learning and equalize growth with charts and indicators, each new generation defies the decisions of the past and confront us with new mysteries to solve.  Each child is a puzzle to be unpuzzled.  Each child comes to us with messages to deliver and a mission to accomplish. This mission remains hidden, for the most part, until growth and development reveal it to the individual and the world. 

What we can count on are the blessedly predictable tools we have to reach each child — tools to unriddle each riddle. One set of strong tools are these four temperaments. These classic identifiers of an individual’s dominant approach to life have been around since the ancient Greek healer, Hippocrates. For only about 150 years, these temperaments have been obscured from our view. With the age of enlightenment and the deepening of an increasingly materialistic worldview, science took a turn away from much that ancient wisdom offered us. 

This is not so in our Waldorf approach. While teaching science so that students are fully cognizant of modern science, Waldorf teachers honor the four temperaments as ever useful.
In his book, The Four Temperaments, newly published by Waldorf Publications, we learn a course load of helpful information about what these temperaments tell us and how to use them to help a child to develop without hinderance (or with less hinderance, at least!). Knowing about the temperaments gives parents and teachers methods to go to the depths of what makes a child “tick” and what makes the child respond with enthusiasm. Storytelling is richly informed with temperament comprehension. Memory is deepened with knowledge of how to use the temperaments in teaching a child.

This is a book that all parents and teachers will appreciate. In struggling to find the heart wisdom that glows in each little one in our care, and to meet it with our own heart’s wisdom, The Four Temperaments opens up roads to travel to help a child realize potential and find a happy way to become all she or he is destined to become. The temperaments, rather than labels, are delicate, short paths to recognition.  When recognized, children light up, respond, learn. Read this book and discover whole new worlds of possibility for a child to feel safe and accepted in the world, in school, and at home.