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For Your Marriage

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The Temperament God Gave Your Kids

“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!” This old adage, often repeated to new parents, feeds this expectation that children take after their parents in interests, looks, and personality. But parenting comes with many surprises and discovering just how different a child can be from you is perhaps one of the biggest surprises of all. Parents can find themselves scratching their heads, wondering why their son would rather read a book than go to the school picnic with all his friends or why their bright and energetic daughter can’t seem to get her homework finished on time. Conflict-adverse parents may discover their child is a natural born lawyer, ready to argue about almost anything. These differences found in families can be opportunities of grace if parents can figure out what makes their unique child tick. The Temperament God Gave Your Kids by Art and Loraine Bennett is a perfect resource to help parents identify their child’s personality or temperament so they can best motivate, discipline, and love their child in the most effective way possible.

Temperament, according to the Bennetts, is “part of our God-given nature, our predisposition to react in certain ways.” Traditionally, the four temperaments are named for the ancient Greek humors: sanguine, choleric, melancholic and phlegmatic. In most cases, children have a predominant temperament that shapes the way they respond to circumstances, which makes family life interesting when kids’ temperaments differ from their parents. But when parents take the time to understand their child’s unique temperament—as well as their own—they are better equipped to guide their children toward virtue and maturity.

The authors do not use the concept of temperament to explain away flaws or misbehavior, but instead encourage parents to nurture and discipline their child according to their temperament so they can best grow in character and thrive as individuals. For example, parents may need to limit the many extracurricular activities of their sanguine child, while prodding their phlegmatic to step out of their comfort zone and try a new sport or instrument. The melancholic child might need a more positive approach to discipline from their choleric parent. The Bennetts have four children that match up with the four temperaments and they share many amusing stories from their own adventures in parenting.

The Temperament God Gave Your Kids details the fortes and flaws of each temperament and provides parents with tips on how best to discipline their individual child. Choleric children may need more explanations for parental orders than their cooperative phlegmatic counterparts while sanguine kids may require more supervision during chore time than the perfectionist melancholic. The Bennetts also share insights into the learning styles of each temperament, so parents can anticipate the challenges their particular child might face as a homeschooler or in the classroom.

Parents will also benefit from learning about their own temperament. Perhaps the most helpful part of the book is the chapter on parent-child temperamental interaction. In this section, Art and Loraine describe how temperament influences parenting style and they stress the importance of recognizing the various challenges parents and children can face based on the different combinations of personality. Even parents and children who share the same temperament can struggle! Parents who learn their own temperament can better anticipate these tensions in how they both lead and relate to their child and the test provided in the appendix will help determine the distinct temperament of each member of the family. Thankfully, the Bennetts also share a great deal of advice on how best to nurture and strengthen these sometimes perplexing parent-child relationships.

Parents are the primary educators of their children and the home is a child’s first introduction to the school of virtues. Different temperaments will need to focus on different virtues to grow humanly and spiritually. As the Bennetts remind us, God created each child in His image and likeness, and the God-given dispositions of each child is not a barrier, but rather a springboard for their moral development. Grace works on nature and parents can help guide their children toward heaven whether they are sanguine, choleric, phlegmatic or melancholic. Chapter 8 provides charts on the natural strengths and weakness as well as a list of virtues for each temperament to support parents in their awesome task of raising saints.

The Temperament God Gave Your Kids is an informative and encouraging read for any parent experiencing the normal challenges of raising kids. The humor and anecdotes as well as the charts and quizzes make this a perfect guide for couples to read and discuss together. Parents will finish this book feeling well-equipped to lead and relate to the unique temperaments of each of their children with a great deal of confidence and hope.

About the Reviewer
Kathleen O’Beirne is a wife, mother of five, a freelance writer and works as a volunteer in the Marriage Preparation Program for the Diocese of Arlington.

Disclaimer: Book reviews do not imply and are not to be used as official endorsement by the USCCB of the work or those associated with the work. Book reviews are solely intended as a resource regarding publications that might be of interest to For Your Marriage visitors.