I love a good potato bar with lots of toppings: cheddar cheese, sour cream, scallions, chili, butter, bacon bits, and chives. Most of the time, though, I only top my baked potato with butter, cheese, and bacon bits. I’m usually the first one to the table, so I watch as everyone else in our family comes through the line. Even though we all have the same options to choose from, none of our potatoes ever look alike.
When God created our children, he gave them a unique combination of toppings that form their individual personalities. They include their desires, emotional needs, strengths, and challenges. Understanding our children’s personalities, and affirming their uniqueness, is one of the greatest gifts we can give them.
My favorite book for learning about our children’s personalities is Personality Plus for Parents by Florence Littauer. Here is a quick overview of the personality types from Littauer’s work:
A phlegmatic’s number one goal in life is to have peace.
Phlegmatic children are low-key and easygoing. They have a good sense of humor and don’t get upset easily. They bring balance to their relationships and usually have few enemies because they are so likable.
Their motto is: Let’s do it the easy way.
Their emotional needs include peace and quiet, downtime, and a feeling of worth.
Their strengths include the tendency to be calm and peaceful. They are the peacemakers who are steady, consistent, and kind, and they are great listeners too.
Their challenges include being hard to motivate, resistant to exertion, and conflict avoidant. They can also be stubborn and tend to procrastinate.
A choleric’s number one goal in life is control.
Choleric children are dependable, hard workers, and natural-born leaders. They like to have a sense of control and can be counted on to get things done. They also have strong opinions and aren’t shy about sharing them.
Their motto is: Just do it.
Their emotional needs are control, appreciation, loyalty, and getting credit.
Their strengths include being organized, task-oriented, and competent. They are gifted at seeing a situation, thinking through things, and coming to the right conclusion.
Their challenges include being overly determined, stubborn, and strong-willed. They want to be in control and do things their way, which sometimes comes across as bossy, rude, and inconsiderate.
A sanguine’s number one goal in life is to have fun.
Sanguine children are energetic, loving, adventurous, and fun. They enjoy quality time with friends and family, enjoy being the center of attention, and are often very entertaining.
Their motto is: Let’s do it the fun way.
Their emotional needs include attention, affection, and a sense of approval.
Their strengths include their ability to make friends quickly, a great sense of humor, and storytelling abilities. They can charm their way into all kinds of situations and out of all kinds of trouble.
Their challenges include attention-seeking, which can overshadow others. They tend to back out of commitments if they aren’t fun, and they are sensitive to criticism and take it extremely personally.
A melancholy’s number one goal is perfection.
Melancholy children are thoughtful and sensitive. They work well alone and strive for perfection. They are also careful, organized, and have great attention for detail.
Their motto is: Let’s do it the right way.
Their emotional needs include sensitivity, space, solitude, and quiet.
Their strengths include being able to work well alone and having an artistic sensibility along with the ability to be analytical. They love schedules, accuracy, and rules to follow.
Their challenges include being shy, clingy, perfectionistic, afraid to fail, sensitive to criticism, and seeing problems instead of solutions. They can also be moody.
Do you recognize your child or children in any of these personality descriptions? Do you see why they may act the way they do or have preferences that are different from yours? Learning the motivation, strengths, challenges, and emotional needs of these four personality types was a game-changer for me!
Recognizing I am sanguine and Joshua is melancholy, for example, enabled me to see why our needs, motivations, and strengths were so different.
In her book, Personality Plus for Parents, which I highly recommend, Florence Littauer says,
“If you listen, you will understand what makes your children tick. Ask them how they feel about each other, about you, and about their teacher; then listen. Do they talk about fun? Tell you what to do? Aim for perfection? Or take it easy?
They will tell you if you take time to listen, and then you can meet their emotional needs, saving them from a lifetime of searching for what they never got as a child.”
The more I learned about my kids’ personalities, the more I was able to notice and point out their strengths to them too. I encourage you to be intentional about telling your kids how they are uniquely designed by God, for a purpose, created in Christ Jesus to do the good things He planned for each of us long ago (Eph. 2:10)
Let’s create a home where our potatoes can grow in the soil of acceptance and approval. A home where they know they are loved for who they are and liked for how they are. A home where our kids, whether young or old, don’t feel pressured to be the product of their parents’ desires or efforts. A home where everyone’s needs and preferences are honored, and where each person is en-
And let’s remember our kids are in the process of becoming all God created them to be, just like us when we were growing up—and just like us today.
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