What kind of learner is your child? Tips and tricks to help them succeed

If your child is struggling with their homework, it could be that they need a helping hand – and an encouraging nudge in the right direction – away from the classroom.

As any parent who’s spent an evening with their head in a book in a bid to help with key subjects like Maths, English and Science knows, helping your child in the way they need can be challenging.

There are plenty of things you as a parent can do to help your child learn and develop, but as ever, knowing where to begin can be tricky.

Start by taking some time out to consider what it is your child actually needs – and then go from there.

We’ve put together this definitive guide to your child’s studying, to help you work out which unique teaching method will work for your child .

girl writing

Let’s First Look at Personality

Your child’s personality will shine through from an early age, with many parents seeing unique characteristics in their little ones from as young as a few weeks or months old.

Paying attention to your child’s personality – along with their general needs and wants – will help you assess how they might learn to their best advantage. Here are a few personality types your child might fall into:

It was Hippocrates who laid the foundation for discussions about personality, by identifying distinct types some 2,500 years ago. Here are the four main types and most recognised characteristics. What group is your child in?

  1. Choleric: A child who falls into this category will be adventurous, determined, outspoken, strong-willed and competitive. Never a shrinking violet, they’ll be open to trying new things and confident in the company of others.
  2. Sanguine: Sociable in temperament, the ‘sanguine’ child will also be playful, talkative, lively, and imaginative. You may notice a flair for arts and crafts and a real inquisitive nature in a child possessing sanguine-like characteristics.
  3. Melancholy: With a detailed, orderly, persistent, respectful and deep personality, the melancholy child is easy to spot. A child possessing these characteristics might find it easier to learn, either on his/her own or in a group.
  4. Phlegmatic: The Phlegmatic child, according to Hippocrates, is thoughtful, controlled, adaptable, attentive and diplomatic. He or she might respond as well to classroom-based learning as they do one-to-one time taking in and retaining facts at home.

By now you’ve had chance to look over the four key personality types and you’ve no doubt nodded your head at one of them at least – an indication that your child or children fall under that category. Of course, there’s nothing stopping a child possessing a mix of qualities from each category, but as a general rule they will display more characteristics in one key group.

Matching Personality and Learning Styles

So, how do these personality groups translate into an effective means to teach your child away from the classroom?

As an adult, you will find that a particular gym class or evening course, for example, plays to your strengths and personality, due to the particular way in which it is put together or presented. Your child will respond well to teaching that keeps their skills in mind too.

You might find, for example, that your own concentration wanes after 45 minutes, or that you work well – in that gym class or night school course – when things are kept varied.

If your child is an introvert, for example, they are unlikely to do well when put on the spot in front of a full classroom.

Or maybe your outgoing teenager responds better when he/she is pitted against fellow students? While some kids love the competitive element of school-based learning, others will feel that they don’t quite make the grade.

So, what can you do to ensure they ace their next exam?

You’ve worked out your child’s personality type. Now let’s use it to ensure an after-school learning plan is developed to firmly keep their characteristics in mind.

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For the ‘Choleric’ Child

A true leader, the choleric child seeks to be in control of situations. It’s interesting that, when it comes to the choleric child – or adult – that this need to ‘rule the roost’ goes back years. With regard to our ancestors, the choleric members of the pack would be the alphas, the leaders. Commanding their subordinates and asserting their dominance using force, they might respond by getting angry if challenged regarding their ability.

Nothing’s changed there then! Today, the choleric child loves it if they’re ahead of their peers in class work, or simply the first to put up their hand to answer a difficult question. They thrive at being the best and on top and have a certain level of confidence in their own abilities.

So, what methods of learning would suit this seemingly confident, self-assured child? The truth is, he or she will most likely excel by using almost any method – and it isn’t because they’re necessarily any brighter, but simply because they believe in themselves that bit more.

While your child will be quite happy learning on his/her own and in their own time, you may find, that a mixture of teaching methods is the way to go.

Are there disadvantages?

Of course; no child is absolutely perfect after all. The choleric child is unlikely to worry about their work – and the fact that they’re still struggling with that maths problem – which may mean they need a little push when it comes to actually getting on with their studies in the first place.

That said, they love competition and hate to lose, so test-based, competitive learning might work for them. Here’s what you can try:

Solo Learning

When it comes to learning, the choleric child needs little encouragement. So confident in their abilities are they that they rarely need a ‘pep talk’ from family or friends and simply get on with the task in hand.

In terms of homework or test preparation, while it can be a good idea to leave your teenager to it, it’s always worth sticking your head around the door every now and then. Often, a confident learner can be too sure of their own abilities and would do well with a refresher from an adult at regular intervals.

If your child is pouring over their school books for hours on end, for example, make sure to break up their learning with a stop for a snack or drink, or switch to more visual-based teaching methods. This will help keep things interesting for learners of any age and ensure you can keep an eye on how they’re getting on.

For the child that does need to break up his or her studies, online tuition provides a great alternative to simply holing themselves up in their room under a mountain of books.

Test-based Teaching

So, we’ve touched on the fact that a choleric child gets a lot out of the competitive element of learning. If, then, you’d like to encourage them to be less competitive with their peers while still being proud of their own achievements, test-based teaching methods are a great idea.

What we mean by test-based teaching is simply keeping a track of your child’s learning by devising a series of tests they can complete on, say, a weekly basis.

They’ve most likely disciplined themselves to do the studying in the first place, so make sure they’re learning at a pace that puts a smile on your face too by printing out some online test papers and checking their progress.

The good news is you’ll find everything from official GCSE mock maths tests to English Literature papers – and a lot more. You can then check your child’s work later, before giving them some handy hints and tips on how they can improve.

This one-to-one time with you will help them see where they might be going wrong, as well as give them the chance to discuss any concerns when it comes to their progression.


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For the ‘Sanguine’ Student

The ‘sanguine’ student will be playful and talkative – great traits in general but perhaps not always so ideal when you’re trying to get them to listen up and learn!

Often, the sanguine child will be reprimanded for ‘disrupting the class’ with too-much chatter – and thanks to their imaginative and creative characteristics is likely to be better at subjects like drama and art.

They may also display a real passion for literature and will probably find areas where they need to apply logical thinking – such as maths or science – a little trickier to get their head around.

Are there disadvantages?

Yes – and we’ve touched on them a little already! The sanguine child will cause you few problems as a baby, toddler or even during primary school, due to the fact that they’re so outgoing you’ll have no worries when it comes to them fitting in and making friends.

Challenges will, however, present themselves when it comes down to them actually learning and retaining facts. With that in mind, there are a couple of educational methods you can try to help them better focus their attention:

Visual-based Learning Techniques

If your child is easily distracted when it comes to traditional classroom-based teaching methods, the chances are they’ll appreciate different ways to learn.

Visual learning techniques are generally employed from a young age, from the very first time you teach your child letters, numbers or colours via those small picture-based books. Such is the effectiveness of visual aids that they can be valuable in high school and university-age children too.

YouTube videos might be a good bet as a starting point, as there’s a host of educational aids on there – from discussions on essential secondary school literary texts to tips on solving maths problems. Failing that, DVDs focusing on key syllabus topics can also be purchased easily online.

Alternatively, put together your own visual aids – especially useful for younger children – from handy diagrams to flow charts – and pin them up around the house to ensure facts and information really sinks in.

Of course, thinking more traditionally now, books still offer one of the best ways to ensure important test prep comes easily to your child.

In terms of revision, start as early as possible and make sure your son or daughter has the right material to aid their studies.

One-to-One Time

For children that find it hard to concentrate, one-to-one time – either with yourself or a dedicated course tutor – can prove absolutely priceless.

One-to-one tutorage works because the child has the attention of a teacher entirely to themselves. Lesson plans and strategies are therefore designed to fit in with them and their own preferences when it comes to learning.


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For the ‘Melancholy’ Learner

The ‘melancholy’ child, according to Hippocrates, is persistent, respectful and orderly. More than that though, they’re detailed, which is a great trait to have, particularly when it comes to their studies.

Are there disadvantages?

Again, yes – but very few! While a melancholy learner can benefit from becoming more sociable and using this to their advantage in terms of group-based teaching, there’s a lot to be said for a child who is happy to learn unaided.

If you’re pretty sure your child falls into this particular personality category, you’ll know that they’re also attentive and adaptable to any given situation. Sounds like the dream scenario as far as studying goes, doesn’t it?

But like any child, the melancholic learner still requires a helping hand from time to time, which is why we’re bringing you two ways your child can benefit from non-classroom based learning.

Visual Learning

Like the sanguine student, the melancholic child will appreciate a change of pace when it comes to traditional classroom learning.

A visual (or spatial, as it’s often referred to) learning style sees students use images, pictures and maps to organise information and communicate with those around them. It suits the melancholic child for one simple reason: they’re generally more attentive than children who fall into one of the remaining three personality groups.

A whiteboard, or handy tear-off whiteboard style sheets are a great idea, especially for those who get a lot out of scribbling and doodling down their thoughts. It’s a good technique if your child is struggling to grasp a particular concept or theory too; noting down some image-based methodologies may help them learn something new. Plus, it’s long been known that many of us do much better when we picture something we need to retain in our minds.

Verbal Learning

The really great thing about the popular verbal method of learning is that just about anyone can use this to great effect.

Regardless of whether you have time yourself to devise after-school learning plans, or if you need to rope in the help of a private tutor, verbal learning will work well for you and your child.

Involving both the written and spoken word, this style of learning allows your child to express him/ herself more easily and will work really well when it comes to learning English books or texts.

Outside of school, verbal teaching skills can be put to good use in public speaking, debating or even politics, while anyone wanting to enter the journalism industry will also find it’s of benefit.

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For the ‘Phlegmatic’ Pupil

Phew! If you’ve made it this far, give yourself a pat on the back – this is a long article! That said, we hope it’s been a great source of information when it comes to your child’s learning.

So, you have a ‘Phlegmatic’ child – good for you! According to Hippocrates, this is a child that is thoughtful, controlled, adaptable, attentive and diplomatic.  With that in mind, they’ll most likely to respond to classroom-based learning as well as they might with one-to-one methods.

Are there disadvantages?

Some phlegmatic children, while happy to get on and learn by themselves, can also be quite introverted. What that means for you is whenever there’s an opportunity to help them develop their social skills, you should jump at it.

So where to begin? There are a couple of great teaching methods most phlegmatic children will enjoy outside of their usual daytime classes, so read on…

Group Learning

While you may find they’re reluctant at first, the phlegmatic child will soon thrive given the chance to participate in group-based learning sessions. The key here is simply to hit on the subjects they enjoy the most – and then track down after-school classes in your area which have a positive, friendly and encouraging ethos.

While for some kids, group-based learning can encourage their already quite competitive nature, for others the chance to learn from peers can be motivating in itself.

If you can’t find a local class or after-school activity, why not think about setting up an after-school club of your own? Your child might get a lot from learning with friends in his or her own home – and because it’s in your own house, this method of learning benefits from being a little more controlled than other forms.

One-to-one Teaching

There are few personality categories in this piece that one-to-one learning doesn’t apply to – and it’s because given the time to really focus on a subject, every child will shine.

According to the blog Contemplative Home School, motivating a phlegmatic child can be tough, but it certainly doesn’t have to be a lost cause. A child who falls in this category loves to have fun and therefore will appreciate new and inventive ways in which to learn important facts.

Via a dedicated online tutor, therefore, they have the time and attention they require to learn what they need to in order to succeed.


Need some more help when it comes to hitting on an educational plan of action for your child? Take a look around the MyTutor site for some handy hints and inspiration.

On our blog in particular, you’ll find plenty of articles designed to complement every aspect of your child’s learning – from home-based teaching methods to simple ways they can boost their grades.

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