Saturday, August 1, 2009

Impulse control

Lately I've been obsessing about temperaments. In Waldorf education, we typically do not consider a child's temperament to be completely evident until the change of teeth or around 7 years old. It requires observation of the child and good instincts, and is wonderful information to have in the classroom. It is also good to know that the overall temperament of childhood is "sanguine".
But classroom application of the temperament theory is not what I've been obsessing about. I've been obsessing about the adults in my life and my own temperament. If you are new to temperaments, a good place to start is this.
Now, what got me thinking about how useful the temperaments are is the area of impulses. In working with small children and their parents, I've noticed that parenting the ages of birth-adulthood and beyond has everything to do with how you respond to an impulse. For a toddler that wants to hug everyone VERY tightly....what is the impulse behind those actions? He is wanting pressure on his body, he wants to put his arms around something, he needs touch. How do we meet the needs behind the impulse without shaming him for his impulses? By the way, I believe that we all seek healing and to make sense of the world around us. Children especially have an innate capacity for healing themselves. They often do it in ways that may be socially and behaviorally unacceptable. We can use their behavior to help them navigate their challenges in a way that is pleasurable for everyone involved. Tricky, yes!
At any rate, I have been using this with my husband. He is choleric and loves to argue and will often argue just to argue. Unfortunately, I often feel that my issues are what we argue about, and I get defensive. I asked him if we could find things we BOTH like to argue about and I'm really excited about trying to do that. I envision a good debate that will draw us closer rather than a random argument that drives a wedge.
With Serena, I have been trying to redirect her loud voice while the baby is sleeping to singing and that seems to be working. These are simple things and there are more complicated questions we have to work her desire to argue and drive a wedge between herself and her friends. I know part of that is the path of the 6-year-old (she will turn 6 in October) and again, I need to help her navigate the impulse to say hurtful things, and also let her learn from her actions and words.
This, to me, is part of the analogy of the swing. When we help "give in" to the impulses of people and children, view them with compassionate curiosity, manage our own impulses and needs, and help each other have all that in healthy, pleasurable ways, we can enjoy our relationships so much more.


  1. I wonder how our own temperament effects our parenting. How it coincides with patience. I've got some reading to do.

  2. This is very Buddhist, you know. Except they call impulses "reactions to sensations." You feel a sensation (physically, emotionally, or whatever) and then you choose how or if you will react to that.


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