The apple does not fall far from the tree

By Dr. Henry Wong Meng Yeong | Friday, February 7 2014

Confucius places the importance of the nurturing of virtues, character and integrity above academic pursuits. Let us examine the ramifications of this precept in contemporary homes and in corporations.

Confucius taught students to cultivate upright character and sow seeds for future generations. If parents are not imbued with virtue and integrity how can they teach their offspring? Children are not born ill-mannered, disrespectful and delinquent. Enshrined in Confucius’ teaching is the ideology that it is the upbringing or the lack thereof which makes them what they are. Children mimic their parents and in doing so adopt the values and character of the adults they model after. Hence the saying that the apple does not fall far from the tree.

The philosophy of Confucius on nurturing children from birth is unequivocal and supports the maxim that "Give me a child for the first seven years, and you may do what you like with him afterwards." The formative years are when a child’s beliefs are molded. Observing contemporary parenting practices, where children are pushed to excel in schools, little emphasis and time is devoted to character building, so much so that the little time parents spend with their offspring is labeled “quality time”. Perhaps referring to the expensive gifts they lavish upon their precious children almost as if to make up for their lack of attention paid to nurturing. Adding to the dilemma is the easy access and rampant influence of social media which has been made available through ubiquitous computers and mobile devices they give their children, often without proper instruction and supervision. Although technology has enriched our lives, parenting has become more of a challenge as parents today have to compete for the attention of the child who is often addicted to the internet. From a young age, children adopt values and beliefs through the net which parents often have no idea of, let alone control. Discipline becomes even more of a challenge in single child families as is the case in China, where parents are inclined to spare the rod. In Asia where both parents are often at work, the nurturing of children is relegated to helpers and maids. Schoolteachers will readily attest to the general lack of upbringing in children today as they face an uphill task instilling discipline and order in students, a clear departure from the precepts of the sage.

The message from Confucius is a simple one: nurturing and character building starts from young, in the home. You can tell a tree from its fruit. From what you reap, others can tell if you have taken time and effort to sow virtues and values in your offspring as it will reflect in their character and lives.