The Story of An Apple Tree and A Child
Why Children Find It Difficult to Build Relationships with Parents
For all those who have ever called themselves ‘son/daughter’ of someone,
It is said that once upon a time, there lived a big apple tree and a boy who liked to play under the apple tree every day. The boy really loves that apple tree. Similarly, the apple tree also loves the boy very much.
He likes to climb up to the treetops, eat the fruit, lie down in the shades of the leaves. Time flies. The boy has now grown up and no longer plays with the apple tree every day.
One day he came to the apple tree. His face looked sad. “Come and play with me again,” pleaded the apple tree.
“I am not a kid who plays with tress anymore,” the boy replied.
“I’d love to have a toy, but I don’t have the money to buy it.”
The apple tree replied, “Geez, I’m sorry I don’t have money either. But, you can take all my apples and sell them. You can get money to buy your favorite toys.”
One day, the boy came again. The apple tree is very happy to see him coming. “Come on, play with me again,” said the apple tree.
“I don’t have time,” replied the boy. “I have to work for my family. We need a house to live in. Will you help me?”
“Oh, I’m sorry I don’t have a house either. But, you can cut all my branches to build your house,” said the apple tree.
After that, the boy never came back. The apple tree felt lonely and sad.
One summer, the boy came again. The apple tree was very joyful to welcome him. “Come on, play with me again,” said the apple tree.
“I’m sad,” said the boy. “I am old and want to live in peace. I want to go on vacation and sail. Will you give me a ship for a cruise?”
“Geez, I’m sorry I don’t have a ship. But, you can cut off my torso and use it to build any ship you want. Go sailing and have fun.”
Then, he went sailing and never came to see the apple tree again.
Finally, the boy came again after many years.
“I’m sorry, my son,” said the apple tree. “I don’t have any more apples for you.”
“It’s okay. I don’t have the teeth to bite your apples either,” replied the boy.
“I also have no trunks and branches you can climb,” said the apple tree.
“Now, I’m too old for that,” replied the boy.
“I don’t have anything else to give to you. All that’s left is my old and dying roots,” said the apple tree while shedding tears.
“I don’t need anything now,” said the boy. “I just need a place to rest. I’m so tired after leaving you so long.”
“Oooh, that’s great. You know, old tree roots are the best place to lie down and rest. Come, let’s lie down in the arms of my roots and rest in peace.”
The boy lay in the arms of the tree roots. The apple tree was very happy and smiled while shedding tears.
The story above illustrates what the general form of parent-child relationships is. The apple tree is an analogy of the existence of parents to their children. Parents are also portrayed as parties who are always open to their children and always willing to give and sacrifice for their children. Meanwhile, the child represented by the boy character is described as someone who only comes to his parents when he needs something from his parents. The boy is described as someone who will leave his parents when his needs are fulfilled and return to his parents when he has other needs that must be fulfilled.
As depicted in the above story, the relationship pattern is a pattern that commonly occurs in the relationship between parents and children. The process of nurturing and caring for parents to their children, which lasts for years, plays a role in shaping this pattern of relationships. Parents are naturally accustomed to acting as the Giver while children are naturally more accustomed to position themselves as the Receiver. As the Giver, parents are accustomed to being the party who plays an active role in doing everything if it is related to the child, including taking an active role in building relationships with the child. In general, parents will actively make efforts to approach their children, ask questions about their child’s life development, and offer help if needed. On the other hand, as the recipient, children are accustomed to seeing their parents as a source of satisfying their needs, and children are “accustomed” to being passive parties when dealing with parents. Generally, children are not naturally motivated to be active, taking the initiative to approach their parents to build relationships with their parents.
Thus, a child tends not to naturally and automatically have the desire or urge to get closer and build relationships with his parents. Children tend to focus more on managing, taking care of their own lives and interests than paying attention to the needs or interests of their parents. It is also easier for children to “forget” their parents, especially if they live in a location far away from their parents.
The urge or desire to build relationships with parents generally only appears in children when a person enters early adulthood. However, the urge or desire to build a relationship with parents is often based on motivations that, although not completely wrong, are incorrect, such as:
- A sense of duty: paying attention and showing concern are things you “should” do.
- A sense of debt of gratitude: children must repay their parents’ kindness.
- Fear of bad judgment from people around them: don’t want to be seen as a bad child or disobedient child.
Motivations, as mentioned above, are not appropriate because such motivation is self-centered because the action taken from the outside looks as if it is an attempt to build a relationship with his parents but is done for his benefit. When someone does something to build a relationship with his parents but based on a sense of obligation or a sense of debt of gratitude, the actions taken are aimed at relieving guilt in himself as a child (for his benefit). When someone does something for a parent because it’s based on a feeling of fear of being judged bad by people around him, that action is taken to protect his self-esteem as a child and avoid rejection from others (for his benefit).
So, the desire to build a relationship with parents should be based on the right motivation based on love for God and love for parents.
- Love for God is the basis of obedience to God’s commands to love parents.
Several passages of God’s Word clearly state how children should relate to their parents. It is said in the Word of God, as follows:
"Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you." (Exodus 20:12).
“Each of you must respect your mother and father, and you must observe my Sabbaths. I am the Lord your God." (Leviticus 19:3)
God’s Word above clearly states a commandment for children to respect and honor their parents. This commandment to respect and honor implies all good deeds, material support, respect, and obedience to parents (Eph. 6:1-13; Col. 3:20). This commandment prevents harsh words and actions that injure parents. In Exodus 21:15, 17 God demands the death penalty for anyone who beats or curses his parents. This shows that God places great importance on respecting parents (www.alkitab.sabda.org).
Even though the Bible reveals that there is punishment for everyone who hits or curses their parents, this shouldn’t be the basis for our obedience to God’s Word. Obedience to God’s Word should be based on love for God which then fosters a desire to obey God’s commands and fosters a sense of love for parents.
- Love for parents is the basis of children to build relationships with parents
Apart from the love for God, the urge or desire to have a relationship with parents should be based on a sense of love for parents. Because we love them, we want to be close to them. Because we love them, we want to know them. Because we love them, we want to pay attention and show concern for our parents. We are not driven by guilt and a desire to earn a good name or protect our dignity. But only out of love.
Because it is not something natural, a child who wants to build a relationship with his parents often requires a conscious commitment and a deliberate effort to be able to build a relationship with his parents. Below are some practical tips that children can do to get closer to their parents, so that their relationships can be closer emotionally, such as:
- Get to know the hobbies and interests of the parents. Accompany your parents when they are doing their hobby.
- Take time to chat with your parents. Invite them to chat about things they are passionate about. For example, if you have parents who have an interest in politics, ask them for their opinion on the current political situation. If a parent has an interest in history, ask them to share a history of a place.
- Ask them for their opinions about a matter, an event, an activity, etc. Parents will feel included and appreciated when this is done.
- Look for activities that can be done with the parents, for example, shopping together, exercising together, etc. Joint activities can draw closer relationships between us and our parents.
Monica, M.Psi., Psi.
IPEKA Counseling Center
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