The Phlegmatic Child

Last week I wrote about how to meet the needs of choleric children. This week I’ll continue the discussion of the temperaments with a consideration of the phlegmatic child.

I’ve always found it easiest to think about the temperaments and how they relate to the four elements. While choleric is fire, the phlegmatic is all about water. And like fire and water, the choleric and the phlegmatic often do not get along. Why? What is it about the phlegmatic that makes the choleric the worst kind of crazy? Here’s a list of phlegmatic qualities. As you read them think about how they can be so at odds with the fire of the choleric.

  • Slow-moving
  • Comfortable
  • Steady
  • Solid
  • Even
  • Methodical
  • Reluctant to try new things
  • Easy-going
  • Loves food

Now, these qualities may create a picture of a couch potato stick in the mud, which is probably how the choleric sees the phlegmatic. But, like water, the phlegmatic has a power of her own. Just like the river that created the Grand Canyon, once a phlegmatic gets going there is no stopping her. Looking for someone to chop vegetables? A phlegmatic will chop them so evenly and will keep at it no matter how long it takes.

Similarly, if a phlegmatic develops an opinion about something — good luck changing it. Combine this with the phlegmatic’s love for comfort and food and you’ve got a recipe for a picky eater. Luckily the phlegmatic will be happy with oatmeal, mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese for breakfast lunch and dinner. Save spicy curries and crunchy vegetables for the choleric.

So, how can we meet the phlegmatic in a learning environment? Well, no one appreciates a good story like a phlegmatic. Phlegmatic students are happy to cozy up, settle in and listen for a good long time (especially if they’ve got a snack to enjoy at the same time). But we can’t always indulge this desire in them for the phlegmatic’s biggest challenge is to be propelled into action. How can we get them moving with a minimum of struggle?

  • Rhythm, rhythm, rhythm. If the working time of your day is solidly ingrained into the phlegmatic’s being it is much easier for him to overcome his natural inertia.
  • Long working periods. Take advantage of the fact that once a phlegmatic gets going she is difficult to stop. The phlegmatic does not need variety and quick changes of activity. She’s got a long attention span and does her best work when she’s been at it for awhile.
  • Give repetitive tasks. Find the repetitive aspect of any work that you do. Drawings that include lots of flowers that must be drawn one by one, grammar exercises that repeat the same type of sentence, and when it comes to long division with decimal numbers, the phlegmatic would be happy to keep bringing down zeroes and dividing until he’s out of paper.
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  1. says

    I would love to meet my 7 year old self. I bet I was the epitome of the phlegmatic child. As an adult I see the other temperaments as they have developed to make me a more balanced adult, but I bet I drove people around me crazy with my slow and deliberate ways. Even now I’m working hard to build a rhythm for myself in my life because I know how much it helps me :)

  2. says

    I hear you Alyss! I certainly relate to those phlegmatics! I think I was much more sanguine when I was younger but my adult phlegmatic self is a force to be reckoned with!


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