If you’ve ever dealt with a toddler having a meltdown, you know that sleight of hand works much better than hand to hand or word to word combat. You’re more likely to receive a flailing foot to the head than a resolution of the problem at hand with the direct approach. In these situations, I used to imagine myself as a stealthy and strategic martial artist engaged in a Tai Chi match, transforming the wild child energy into a graceful dance, where somehow I would come out composed and on top, and my child would go from crazed to cooperating.
Ahhhh, thank goodness for imagination! But this level of strategy and efficiency is available to us ordinary Western folk by learning just a little bit about the Eastern ways. Truly, Eastern philosophy has a lot of wisdom, strategy, and finesse to offer us in the way of parenting. It comes through the lens of the 5 Elements.
5 Element theory, a direct descendant of Yin and Yang theory, reflects a deep understanding of the Universal order underlying all things in our world. The 5 Elements organize all natural phenomena into 5 groups - Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. Each element is a metaphor that reveals an essence and energy. The use of this philosophy in parenting provides many advantages to all involved.
Step 1: Know Your Child
When we are born, we are given a signature that reflects the status of all the elements at the time of our birth. There are Fire years and Water years, Earth months and Fire months, Metal days and Wood days, and Water hours and Metal hours, and every combination in between. This signature is called a Bazi or 5 Element Profile. It provides an abundance of information from physical and mental strengths to personality and psychological challenges. Imagine the power you would have as a parent, knowing what makes your kid tick.
Step 2: Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses as a Parent
This same 5 Element Profile information is available for you as a parent. Each element has special qualities and whether you are weak or strong in them provides information about your advantages and challenges as a parent and how you are uniquely equipped to bring out the best in your child.
Step 3: Use the 5 Elements to Optimize Parenting
The 5 Elements is sometimes called the 5 Phases. This more accurately describes the dynamic nature of the elements. As an image, they are arranged in a simultaneous five pointed star and circle. This reflects the relationships that are inherent in the system. The circle is the creation cycle whereby each element is in a continuous process of creating the next element. The star is the control cycle whereby each element is in a continuous process of controlling the element across from it.
This is where the stealth of Martial Art Parenting comes in. If your child is really strong in a particular element you need to use the characteristics of the controlling element or the weakening element (the subsequent element in the circle) to balance that child’s excess element.
For example, let’s say your child is very strong in the Metal Element, using more of that same rigid energy will only lead to power struggles. The most refined method would be to use the Fire Element to “melt” the rigidity of the Metal Element. This could be done with humor, or extra love and compassion (sometimes a challenge to give to a heavily armored Metal Element child). The other option would be to use the fluidity and depth of the Water Element, by giving a greater, more universal or spiritual context to the problem at hand.
The possibilities are exciting! Imagine the power to create a parenting strategy that brings out the best in your child and gives you the confidence, ease, strength, and grace of Bruce Lee.