It’s Friday, and you know what that means! Kelly M’s hosting Seven Quick Takes Friday over at This Ain’t the Lyceum.
Today it’s my pleasure to host Connie Rossini, author of several books, her latest being A Spiritual Growth Plan for your Choleric Child.
1) Connie, thanks for visiting us today. Briefly, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m a lifelong Catholic, married with four young sons. I have a B.A. in Elementary Education and have homeschooled since our oldest was four. I also homeschooled my youngest brother through high school. Off and on for the last ten years, I’ve written a spirituality column for the diocesan newspaper. I blog on Carmelite spirituality and raising prayerful kids at Contemplative Homeschool. I’m also a columnist at SpiritualDirection.com.
2) Your latest book is called A Spiritual Growth Plan for Your Choleric Child. Can you tell us a little bit about what you mean by a “choleric child”?
The idea of four temperaments comes from Hippocrates, most famous as the father of medicine. He saw that people tended to react to stimuli in one of four ways. He thought these reactions were related to body fluids, so he gave them the names choleric, sanguine, phlegmatic, and melancholic. The choleric reacts intensely and immediately to stimuli. He holds onto his impressions for a long time. His strengths include high energy, determination, noble ideals, and a strong work ethic. He is often good at nearly everything. He tends toward pride and anger and loves a good debate. Without proper direction he can become a tyrant, but many cholerics have been great saints.
3) I understand that our vocation as parents includes providing spiritual guidance as well as an education for our children. However, I’ve never before heard of making an actual plan for a child’s spiritual growth. Can you tell us where and/or how you discovered the idea of planning out a child’s spirituality?
I think the idea really started several years ago when I read A Mother’s Rule of Life by Holly Pierlot. She suggested something similar. I made a few notes for my oldest son, who was probably six or seven at the time, but I never really implemented them.
I’m a person who likes to look for underlying principles that tie things together. (That comes from my strong secondary melancholic temperament.) After studying a lot about the temperaments in the last few years, I began to realize that most of my kids’ misbehavior was related to their temperaments. I realized that the discipline that worked for one child wouldn’t necessarily work for another.
So I thought, I’ll make a plan for each child as part of our homeschool year, working proactively on issues related to his temperament. I knew my choleric son needed to learn humility and compassion, my melancholic son needed to learn to fight despair, and my phlegmatic-sanguine son needed to overcome sloth. [My youngest just turned four, so we are still discovering what makes him tick!] These are all spiritual issues. So temperament studies became a weekly part of our religion class.
4) I have to admit: right now I find the idea of planning my child’s spiritual growth a bit troubling. The idea of it feels.. intrusive somehow. Can you maybe put to rest any qualms some of us might have with the idea of planning the growth of another soul? Specifically, I mean beyond the usual setting of a good example, providing instruction in the faith that is in line with the magisterium, etc.?
You’re not the first one who has told me the idea challenges him. The first thing I want to say is that this has been an extremely positive experience for my family. I feel like at last I am loving my kids for who they are and trying to help them be the best they can be, instead of expecting them all to act and react like I do.
The Church tells us that parents are their children’s first teachers in the faith. That doesn’t just mean first chronologically because we know them first, but we are their primary teachers of the faith throughout their childhoods. I look at myself and my husband as our children’s spiritual directors. We are to help them on their way towards God. A spiritual director cannot force his directee to change, but he can and should help the directee make a plan of attack for his spiritual life. My boys are very active in this process. I often begin their temperament studies (and we do this one on one) by asking, “How are things going with your temperament? Is there anything you think you need to work on?” Then we talk about it and try to come up with some ideas of how to approach the problem. My choleric son in particular (who is also the oldest) often has great ideas about what will work for him. But without this time set aside, he may never have been as reflective as he needs to be for genuine growth.
As I say in my book, we are to know, love, and serve God–that is our life’s purpose. Instruction in the faith touches on the knowing, although I don’t think it even covers that aspect completely. Ultimately, what we need to know is Jesus, not just the articles of faith. That’s why teaching my children prayer methods that go along with their temperaments is an important part of our studies. Setting a good example is imperative too. I have a whole section about the importance of modeling the behavior you want to see in your children. But I want to give my children the tools that will help them grow closer to Jesus. They don’t need to have the same exact relationship with God that I do. They don’t have all my struggles. They have different strengths. I want them to be aware of both those struggles and those strengths, so that they can already be practiced in fighting them or using them for God’s glory by the time they are adults.
5) What are some of the resources you used in writing this book?
For background on the temperaments, The Temperament God Gave You by Art and Laraine Bennett is the best source by Catholics. Protestant author Florence Littauer also has a temperament series that is excellent. John Paul II’s exhortation on the family, Familiaris Consortio, was my go-to source for the spiritual life of parents and their kids.
6) What are some of the lessons you yourself learned while pursuing this project?
One valuable lesson I learned from other writers who critiqued my early drafts was that not only our kids are different–parents are too! I tend to think that every parent will have the same struggles with their kids that I do. I learned from these other parents that some of the things about the choleric temperament that nearly drive me crazy don’t bother them at all! I had to rewrite parts of my book to reflect those differences.
7) Lastly, where can we pick up this book and any of your other work for ourselves?
A Spiritual Growth Plan for Your Choleric Child is currently available on Amazon as an ebook and a paperback. The paperback should be available at other online retailers soon. My earlier book Trusting God with St. Therese is available in several formats.If readers visit the Book Table tab on my blog, they will find links to many different retailers, as well as to the two free downloads I have written.
Thank you for stopping over, Connie! I certainly learned a lot from this interview, and I hope Tomato Pie fans did as well.