Sparky qualities are the ‘good’ qualities, the one’s that make us happy, make us fun to be around while making us feel fulfilled and content. Some kids are naturally happy and fun loving which seems normal and right for a kid. Other kids are sad or angry or sacred and a bit too serious about life – if you have one of these, hopefully this will help.
When I taught at Steiner there were a few things about the philosophy that made sense to me. One of these was the ‘Four temperaments’, which Rudolf admits he nicked from the Ancient Greeks. In more modern times these have been renamed ‘personality types’.
The four temperaments or personality types are: sanguine, choleric, melancholic and phlegmatic.
I’ll give you my understanding of these with an insect theme…
Sanguine – Imagine a beautiful, colourful butterfly, flitting from one flower to the next, totally blissing out in the moment, hanging out with other butterflies (whoever happens to be there) totally unaware and unconcerned with anything other than what he is doing right now. He is prone to happiness. Life is a wonderful adventure!
Choleric – Imagine a bossy soldier ant, with a vision, a clipboard, a short fuse and a deadline. This ant wants everything done his way – right now! If someone disagrees or challenges this ant for power watch out! He can solve any problem and in a crisis he is the one to follow! He is prone to temper tantrums. Life is a task that needs to be conquered!
Melancholic – Imagine a stick type insect (not necessarily thin) who is overly concerned with what is going on for him and others, “This tree isn’t good enough. That bird can see me. I’m a goner if I stay here. I have to find somewhere better.” He stews, he moans, he tries to get things perfect and when they aren’t he is disappointed in himself. He is however inventive, creative and good at preventing problems. He is prone to depression. Life is cruel and harsh and must be endured!
Phlegmatic – Imagine a caterpillar who is relaxed and willing to go with the flow (whether he agrees with it or not!) He is not responsible and hopefully it will all turn out well in the end. In the meantime he is enjoying the idle life, eating his fill of leaves, slowly but surely preparing himself for a big sleep in his cocoon. He is a little wary of the change that will bring, but there is not much he can do about it now! He is prone to laziness. Life is life, what will be will be!
Grown ups are a mixture of these personality types. The idea is that a balanced person has equal elements of them all, in reality however, one or two will be way more dominant. (If you want to know your personality dominance, there are quite a few tests out there, just Google ‘the four temperaments tests’).
For kids it is a different story. Kids (up to puberty) are supposed to be sanguine! They are supposed to be happy little butterflies, flitting here and there, not taking anything too seriously, just being totally caught up in awe of the world and enjoying it as it comes. That’s the Steiner theory from one hundred and twenty years ago anyway.
Sanguine is also the most obvious ‘Sparky’ temperament or personality type, but more on this soon.
From my experience I would estimate that about half the kids I’ve taught in primary school have been convincingly sanguine whereas the other half have not. Sure there were times when they were all immersed in play and felt safe and able to enjoy themselves completely, but the rest of the time the non-naturally sanguine definitely had obviously qualities from the more ‘mature’ temperaments.
I don’t think Steiner was wrong one hundred and twenty years ago, I just think kids were better at being kids back then. If kids today were able to go off and play, interact, explore, create and ‘flit around’ safely in nature with their brothers, sisters, cousins, and neighbours, their personalities would be different.
If their bodies and imaginations were free to go wild I believe we would find more sanguine kids today. Problem is we have genuine reasons to keep kids at home, they can’t just go off and explore on their own – they’re not safe! To replace this freedom our kids have structured activities they do after school and on the weekends too. Maybe after their activities, homework, and jobs they can watch some TV or have some screen time but they have to be where we can see them or hear them! (I am not having a go at anyone this is just how things are!) Many kids have also had bad experiences, which instead of being talked about and felt about so the child can resume their ‘freedom and safety’ have resulted in them feeling unsafe and unsure.
Basically in a nutshell for kids to retain their natural sanguine personality they have to have butterfly like freedom and naivety!
If you want a more Sparky or a more sanguine kid you have to give them the feeling of freedom, safety and wonder! If the neighbourhood isn’t safe take them somewhere beautiful in nature – the beach, creek or park and PLAY with them, have FUN with them! Be a butterfly yourself and check out all the wonderful, amazing and miraculous things in our world!
I also don’t think it is such a big deal if our kids are showing dominant signs of one of the other temperaments. There are Sparky qualities in all the temperaments so if you want your child to be more Sparky support them to grow into the positives of the personality qualities they already have.
Let’s say your child is more choleric than you would like them to be. Okay the Sparky qualities of cholerics are that these personalities are passionate leaders who are focused, motivated and efficient. If your gorgeous child has these qualities dominant at a young age then trust that they are ready to start their own projects and let them go for it! Let them learn patience, flexibility, tact, empathy and how to keep going after they fail! Gardening and cooking come to mind and maybe writing and illustrating books to share with siblings or school friends too!
Or maybe your child is more melancholic than you can handle? What on earth is Sparky about melancholics? Okay, how about the fact that they are thoughtful, considerate, organised, creative, and prepared for anything? Would your child be up for inventing and creating solutions to problems in the home – like how the garbage always leaks or a better way to sort the washing? Or maybe they could even come up with a better way to resolve disputes? I know they are young but if they are displaying the negatives of this temperament already (worrying, complaining, showing disappointment in themselves) then why not encourage them to suggest solutions to things that aren’t working out? I’d wager that they’d have some great ideas!
Finally your child may be more phlegmatic than you would like! I’ve certainly seen my fair share of kids who are unenthusiastic, indecisive, ‘lazy’ or passive. I just want to shake them into action! Yes, I realise that doesn’t help but encouraging the Sparky side of these kids might. These guys are relaxed, calm, kind, affectionate, diplomatic, faithful and observant so maybe you could enlist your gorgeous child to help you and other members of your family to wind down, to take time out and to take turns at doing something in nature or something ‘loving’ that each member of the family would enjoy. These guys are also loyal friends, so encouraging them to play with some sanguine personalities outside the house will help them enjoy all the great things life has to offer!
I hope that helps! Except I have totally contradicted what a beautiful girl taught me last workshop, which is this – all kids are perfect just the way they are!
Yes that is true! But since we are all here to learn along the way, I think it’s okay for them to want us to be a bit more Sparky (by playing with them and having more fun with them) and for us to want the same for them (more play, more fun and more chances for their positive personality qualities to shine through)!