Parenting Your Go-With-the-Flow Child

You know how they say you marry your opposite?  Check. 

My unassuming, humble, reserved husband married a strong-willed, dynamic, talkative me.  We joke that he is the rock that holds my kite string so I don’t sail off somewhere.  He’s the brake pedal while I’m the gas {turbo boost included at no extra charge}.  We have found our way {after 25 years of dating and marriage in total} of balancing one another most days.  God used our contrasting personalities to soften {sometimes like sandpaper} the parts in one another that needed refining.  I sit still more readily and he takes more risks because of the way we have learned from and molded one another over the years.  Though I haven’t raised a go-with-the-flow personality, I married one, so I have insight into what makes these people tick and how to bless them as you rear them.  {After all, we do “raise” our husbands a bit, don’t we?}

This go-with-the-flow personality is technically called the Phlegmatic {yes, as in phlegm – it sticks with you and has no real umph of its own}.  For those geeks among us, the origin of determining the four personalities came from Hippocrates who is said to be the Father of Medicine.  He determined basic fluids in the body and said that a combination or excess of various fluids helped determine the temperament.  He would say that the Phlegmatic has an excess of phlegm.  Don’t tell the phlegmatic’s brothers and sisters or he’ll be mercilessly teased.  Likelihood one of them has too much bile or something.

If you have an easy going child, you may wonder why you need a blog post about how to bring them up.  I mean, they go with the flow, so hey, roll with it and focus your efforts on the strong-willed child or the natural born leader {who will grab any and all attention if you let them}.   That potential – to let the easiest child blend in with the wallpaper – is exactly why we need this post. 

The Phlegmatic could also be called the easy-going, go-with-the-flow or loyal personality.  Gary Smalley calls this person, The Retriever. 


Obviously I’ve got a thing for this personality, or I wouldn’t have married one.  The Phlegmatic is calm, loyal and tends to be introverted.  They rarely get upset and when they do, well, you probably did something big to get them there, so beware that every porcupine has its quills.  Cuddly as they seem {and are} when backed into a corner, the phlegmatic will turn on you and shoot darts.  Of course, this is so contrary to their nature that they feel awful for a long time after such an outburst.  One more warning about pushing this easy going person too far: they can hold a grudge f o r – e v – e r.  You won’t always know it, but when you show that you are not reliable, they make a note of it and you have to do a whole lot of changing in order for them to allow you back into their inner circle and more importantly their heart.  It is precious to be allowed access to the intimate life of a phlegmatic.  Do not take this privilege lightly.  They watch people and are relatively excellent judges of character.  If they decided you are worthy of the honor of their intimacy and loyalty, you need to make efforts to repay the vote of confidence with your own show of care and loyalty. 


Being an introvert, your phlegmatic child may be slow to warm up to people or new experiences.  They are very accommodating, so they may not always tell you how they are feeling.  Be sure to check in with them before you go into something new to them.  Phlegmatics love routine.  The movie “Groundhog Day” wouldn’t bother them a bit – repeating the same day over and over is predictable and you get good at it.  The phlegmatic doesn’t push their way into anything.  They won’t be the first in line to get the promotion if it means signing up and taking risks.  They simply resist change because what they have is good – they find a way to make good in what they have.  Don’t worry, though.  Your phlegmatic will be a hard worker and apply himself to what needs to get done.  This work ethic makes up for what he lacks in willingness to take risks or push ahead by force.

Phlegmatic Strengths & Weaknesses

You know the classic exchange that goes something like, “What do you want to do?” “I don’t know, what do you want to do?”  Well, this conversation was invented by two phlegmatics.  The inability to decide firmly – or  to even care which decision is made – is distinctly a phlegmatic trait.  Other people can become indecisive by means of how they are raised or because of codependency which makes them fear rocking the boat by having an opinion.  Not the phlegmatic.  They truly usually could care less about relatively unimportant matters {the scope of what they feel is unimportant is much wider than it is for the rest of us opinionated folk}.  When they feel strongly, they will put up an inner wall – stalwart as a brick edifice.  Try to budge them when something matters.  No, then again, don’t.  If they care that deeply, it’s about time you concede. 

As for parenting this child, it could be easy to let them slide under the radar, to assume all is always well.  Your go-with-the-flow child has a rich inner thought life.  Spend some regular time with them – cuddle up in their bed at night and let them do the talking.  Listen.  If you want to know what is really going on, ask your Phlegmatic.  They were quietly observing while everyone else was caught up in the moment.  They see the deeper things.  Let them know you care.  Often this child gets passionate about things in a contagious way.  They do have natural interests and talents, but their delight can also come through sharing the passion someone else has for an activity or event.  When you are looking for friends to pair with your young phlegmatic, choose well.  You will do best to find children who allow the phlegmatic a turn and don’t override their every thought or word.  If the phlegmatic is around a bossy child, she will give in and be led, though inwardly she is taking note that she isn’t being treated fairly. 

phlegmatic 2
The best thing for your phlegmatic will be the way you call out the fact that he does have some thoughts and ideas of his own and when he does, you want to make room to hear them and help bring them to life.  Tend their sensitive hearts with care and accept that they may not push themselves to be the top of the class, the leader of the activity or to take front and center on stage.  This personality is content to be behind the scenes, steadily, loyally contributing to something bigger than themselves.  Honor their hard work and the crucial part they play.  Most of all, thank God for the unique way He made this sensitive, deep, caring person you have the honor of rearing. 

I am so glad you are joining me in this series on Parenting Your Child’s Personality.  You can find the first, second and third posts if you missed them.  I love hearing from you – about how this post helped you as you parent or any other thoughts or prayer requests you want to share.  You can comment here or on the Hearts Homeward Facebook Page.   Be sure to come back for the final post in this series: Parenting Your Logical, Orderly Child.  

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