Personalities: Understanding yourself and your child

Categories: Children, Family, Mental Health, and Parenting.

Your personality is your consistent pattern of behavior, thoughts, and emotions.  It’s the characteristic way in which you respond to the world around you.  About 50% of our personality is based on our genetics – the temperament we are born with.  Studies of identical twins separated at birth show surprising similarities in the twins even though they were raised in completely different environments.  Our environment, though, does shape us in powerful ways.  Our family of origin, events and experiences in early childhood, social groups, and our culture definitely shape our patterns of behavior and how we are. 

There are so many theories on “types” of personalities out there.  For our discussion today, let’s keep it as simple as possible.  I’m going to go way back to the time of ancient Greece (approximately 400 BC), when the first theory of personality was created by Hippocrates.  This theory identified four basic personalities.  These personalities are named; Choleric, Melancholic, Phlegmatic, and Sanguine.  Everyone basically has a primary or dominant personality type, but there is often another type that is secondary.  For instance, a person could be Melancholic but also display some traits from Choleric. You can take a test online to determine which of these personalities you exhibit.  The website for this test is

The sanguine personality is described as a lovable, happy, and generous type who laughs easily and loves attention.  They love people, make friends easy, and thrive on activity.  They may talk too much, and get easily bored or get too involved in “drama.”  The Sanguine child is curious, open, wide-eyed, and attention-seeking.  They need lots of approval and acceptance. Watch out for their attempts to charm you to avoid getting in trouble! 

The Choleric personality is described as a driven, confident, and intense type.  They are given to angry outbursts and often want the power and authority in situations.  They are natural-born leaders and are achievement oriented.  The Choleric child will be always on the move and strong-willed.  They want appreciation for their accomplishments and they love a challenge.  Watch out for their temper!

The Phlegmatic person is going to be the quiet and laid back type.  They are steady emotionally and make friends easily.  Phlegmatics will avoid conflict as they value quietness and peace in their lives.  Humor is often used to lighten the mood.  Procrastination is often a problem.  The Phlegmatic child needs peace and quiet.  Structure that supports stress management is important.  This type of child needs respect for who they are, but also encouragement to not let things go or “stick their head in the sand” regarding problems.

The Melancholic personality is described as organized, analytical, and private type of person.  They are fine being alone and working alone.  Being deep thinkers, they can sometimes overthink and become moody.  They will manage stress with alone time and through organizing.  The melancholic child needs to be given permission to organize things “their way.”  They often need space to be alone.  Their thoughts and feelings need to be understood.  Watch out for the tendency to be perfectionistic and moody. 

While these four personality types do not capture one’s entire personality, they do describe traits that are often seen together in a person.  Its important to figure yourself out – what makes you tick.  Its equally as important to understand your child in the same way.  Further, its very helpful to accept the differences rather than try to change the child.  A choleric parent who tries to make their phlegmatic child just like them will have more success turning lead into gold.  Acceptance of your child’s personality creates mutual understanding and both of you will enjoy each other more.

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