Dear Vicki: I’m the mom of two small children and I’m curious about how much they’re influenced by and reacting to the elements in our family. My husband is clearly a Wood and I’m an Earth. Will having an Earth mother make little Jessica more Earth? Also, how much do children identify with their elements at a young age and as they grow? Does little Mickey’s preference to play alone most of the time mean he’ll be a Water when he grows up? Thanks for any guidance you can give me. I want to do the best I can by them. Signed: Curious Mom
Dear Curious: It must be time to talk about children and the Five Elements because I’ve received several questions lately about working with small children. The short answer to your question is that children are born with their elemental wiring already in place, so they can, and will, begin expressing their primary element immediately. That means that your son is already the little Water he appears to be, and one way you see that is in his tendency to prefer playing alone. And if your daughter is an Earth, it will be because she’s wired that way, not because she has an Earth mother.
That may be the short and easy answer, but to get the whole picture we need to discuss two important relationships that color the way your children express their elements as they grow: 1) How their primary element relates to the elemental dynamics of the family in which they grow up, and 2) How their primary element relates to the element that represents their developmental stage.
We’ll start with the issue of developmental stage. Remember that the Five Elements model represents the predictable phases any whole experiences in the course of one cycle, and that holds true for the human life. During our lifetime we are born and spend our infancy and early childhood in the energy of Water, full of ideas and completely focused on our own needs. As adolescents, we are in a Wood stage; we are growing and reaching out to the world. Fire corresponds to the time in our lives when we are young adults and always on the go. We think we can do it all and try to prove it. Earth is a time of maturity when we (hopefully) learn to balance all life has to offer in a healthy way. And Metal is old age, the time we ponder our life and understand its lessons. The life stages of Water and Wood deal with children, so those are the ones we will cover here.
We’ll start with your son, Mickey. The fact that he prefers playing by himself does suggest he could be a Water. You don’t mention his age, but since he’s one of your two “small” children, let’s assume he’s between infancy and early childhood, which puts him in the Water stage of development. He’s a Water child in a Water stage, which will likely exaggerate his Water behaviors. That means he will enjoy being alone, but will also frequently demand that the world revolve around him in a way characteristic of both Waters and young children.
For Jessica, on the other hand, if she is a little Earth, her primary Earth would temper the Water aspect of her early childhood because Earth controls Water. That means she might be less narcissistic than is normal for young children. And since her Earth will emphasize caring about others and time with family, she might also be less happy playing alone.
Wood, Fire, and Metal children will also be affected by the relationship of their primary element to the Water aspect of early childhood. Wood is fed by Water, so a Wood child might express the unabashed willfulness of Wood more during early childhood. The Fire youngster might be slightly less desirous of being involved in everything the way a Fire normally is because of the damping down effect of the Water stage on their Fire. And the young Metal might be a bit more narcissistic and Watery than other young children because their Metal will feed the Water of this developmental stage.
In adolescence, we are in a Wood stage; our world is expanding and we want to be acknowledged for our accomplishments. To understand how each element will be affected during adolescence, we look at the relationships each has with Wood energy. Water feeds Wood, so Water children could be more productive and assertive than usual as adolescents. Wood adolescents will have a double dose of Wood, which could mean a bumpy time in the family for a few years. Fire adolescents will likely be more Fiery than other children because the Wood of their developmental stage will feed their Fire. Earth adolescents will probably be less Earthy than at other times in their lives because the Wood of their stage will have a controlling affect on their Earth. And Metal adolescents could be expected to be better mannered than their counterparts because their Metal will keep the Wood energy of adolescence under control.
This pattern of developmental stages affecting our elemental expression continues into adulthood, but that takes us out of the realm of your question regarding the Five Elements and children. We’ll save covering the last three stages (young adult, maturity, and old age) for another time because there is one more set of relationships that affect how a child expresses their element, and that’s the relationship dynamics within the family unit.
If Mickey is a primary Water, he and your Wood husband will relate to each other via the Nurturing Cycle (Water feeds Wood), which will give an overall harmonious tone to their interactions. On the other hand, Mickey might find your Earth a bit challenging because you two relate via the Controlling Cycle (Earth controls Water). This doesn’t mean that you and Mickey are destined to fight, or that your husband and Mickey will never fight. If Mickey gets too Watery, your husband could become frustrated or angry because too much Water rots Wood. And your gentle Earth guidance will probably feel loving and supportive to Mickey most of the time as you help him find boundaries. It’s just important to remember that the way your elements relate to each other can suggest a tone or tendency in your interactions.
With Jessica, your Earth and her Earth will certainly understand each other. But you will need to be careful of the pitfalls regarding same-element relationships. For Earths, getting too wrapped up in each other can be a problem. Your husband, however, will need to be mindful that his Wood will probably feel controlling to Jessica at times (Wood controls Earth) and act accordingly. He doesn’t need to step away from discipline, but taking it slower and more gently with Jessica will be a good approach for him and something to remember.
I hope this long answer has given you a sense of the ways your children will express their primary elements as they grow. It’s a wonderful and exciting time of life. Blessings to you and your family!