Gandhi and parenting? This is an area that has been hugely debated and often criticised. In fact, it has often been said Gandhi was derailed in parenting his children and even giving a proper direction to his followers as the “father” of the nation. Personally, I think he was a true visionary whom some of his children and many of his countrymen have not completely understood. Whether we think of him as a Mahatma or not, the principles of non-violence and ethics that he swore and lived by certainly teach us many important values, like the effectiveness of non-violence and love in all areas.
To make us understand this in a better way, I take the liberty of sharing Arun Gandhi, his grandson’s experience that he has shared in the public domain.
Arun says, “When I was sixteen years old, we lived in South Africa about eighteen miles outside the city. One Saturday my father had to go to town to attend a conference and he didn’t feel like driving so he asked me if I would drive him into town and bring him back in the evening. My parents also gave me many small chores to do in town, like getting the car serviced and the oil changed.
When I left my father at the conference venue, he said, “At five o’clock in the evening, come here and pick me up, and we’ll go home together.”
I said, “Fine.” I rushed off, did all my chores as quickly as possible, left the car in the garage—and went straight to the nearest movie theatre. I got so engrossed in a double feature that I didn’t realize the passage of time. The movie ended at 5:30, and I came out and ran to the garage and rushed to where Dad was waiting for me. It was almost six o’clock when I reached there and he was wondering what had happened to me. The first question he asked me was, “Why are you late?”
Instead of telling him the truth, I lied to him, and I said, “The car wasn’t ready; I had to wait for the car,” not realizing that he had already called the garage.
When he caught me in the lie, he said, ‘There’s something wrong in the way I brought you up that didn’t give you the confidence to tell me the truth, that made you feel you had to lie to me. I’ve got to find out where I went wrong with you, and to do that I’m going to walk home.” There was absolutely nothing I could do to make him change his mind—and I couldn’t leave him and go away. For five and a half hours I crawled along in the car behind Father, watching him go through all this pain and agony for a stupid lie. I decided then and there that I was never going to lie again.
It’s almost fifty years since the event, and every time I think about it I still get goose bumps. That is the power of nonviolent action. It’s a lasting thing. It’s a change we bring through love, not fear. Anything that is brought by fear doesn’t last. But anything that is done by love lasts forever.”
Fortunately, I have never succumbed to using physical violence on my children. Still there certainly has been some yelling, shouting and threats which is also a kind of violence. Reading Arun Gandhi’s experience has made me swear I shall never use any kind of violence on my children, whatever the situation may be but use love. The lesson they learn in the process shall surely last forever which is what effective parenting is all about.