5 Ways To Teach Your Child The Gandhian Principle of Nonviolence

Increasing violence and intolerance has made the principle of non-violence in thought and deed more relevant than ever. Here's how you can guide your child to follow in Gandhiji's footsteps.

By Varsha Venkatesh

5 Ways To Teach Your Child The Gandhian Principle of Nonviolence

After school, 13-year-old Arun was walking back home carrying his meagre belongings — a notebook, a writing pad and a short 3-inch pencil.

Arun's pencil had whittled down to almost a stub and he wasn't comfortable writing with it. So, he thought that he would request his grandfather to give him a new pencil. Arun was so confident that grandpa would grant his request that he tossed his old pencil by the roadside.

Later that evening, when Arun asked his grandpa for a new pencil, he was unprepared for what happened next. Instead of giving him a new pencil, his grandfather began questioning him: "What happened to the pencil you were using? Where did you discard it?"

Afterwards, his grandfather ordered Arun to go out and look for the pencil he had thrown away and bring it back. Grandpa's behaviour left Arun puzzled. He couldn't understand why grandpa was making such a fuss over a pencil!

“You must be joking! You don’t expect me to go out and look for a pencil in the dark, do you?” Arun exclaimed.

“Oh yes I do, and here’s a flashlight,” said grandpa in a firm, yet loving, manner. It took Arun quite some time to find the pencil stub he had so carelessly tossed away.

That boy is none other than Mr Arun Gandhi, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. He narrated this incident to tell us about the lessons he learned while living with his grandfather...

Lesson #1: Violence against nature

It takes a lot of natural resources to produce even something as simple and readily available as a pencil. And, when we throw things away without utilising them to the maximum, we waste the world's precious natural resources. This is violence against nature.

Lesson #2: Violence against humanity

The affluent can afford to buy everything they need, stock up and, consume more than they should. Over-consumption of resources by a few deprives others of the same. This is violence against humanity.

Violence is not just about causing physical hurt, it is also about being wasteful and insensitive to the needs of others. Therefore, the principle of non-violence should be instilled in every individual right from an early age.

Till now, we have discussed violence borne out of acts committed without paying much thought to the consequences. However, violence can also be an expression of anger. While anger is not necessarily a negative emotion, it’s important to understand and channelise it in order to get fruitful results. This is often difficult to do, which is why anger is often destructive.

Gandhiji offered two suggestions on how to cope with anger and practise non-violence:

  • Pour your anger into a journal with the intent of finding a peaceful, constructive solution.
  • Overcome problems by building relationships based on respect, acceptance, understanding and appreciation.

Five simple ways to teach your child the principles of non-violence

  1. Encourage mindfulness: Being mindful is about paying attention to what we are experiencing and not jumping to immediate judgements. Often, violence is the result of giving in to emotions or being careless in actions. Teach your child to be mindful so that she can deliberate on her thoughts and think well before she acts.
  2. Discourage violence/control exposure to violence: “Violence in cartoons, movies and video games model physical aggression,” states Craig Anderson, a distinguished professor of psychology and director of the Center for the Study of Violence, Iowa State University. Today, we have made violence an enjoyable experience! In most of our movies or TV shows for children, we can see the hero thrashing the villains. We celebrate this as the victory of good over evil. We make our children understand that since the villain is bad, he deserves to be punished physically by the hero. Discourage violence and try to ensure that your child is not exposed to violent shows dished out in the name of entertainment. Tell him that it is not acceptable to resort to physical violence to seek justice.
  3. Foster empathy: Empathy is about being able to put yourself in somebody else's position and understand what they are going through. Learning to empathise will help your child become more sensitive to the needs of others and respect their rights, boundaries and feelings in a better way.
  4. Teach how to peacefully disagree: Every human being is different. Our views and thoughts too differ from that of others. However, some of us are unwilling to accept or tolerate other peoples' views and instead, use force to impose their opinion on the latter. Help your child understand that it is okay to disagree. This will make your child much less likely to act out in anger when someone disagrees with her. Also, supervise her behavior and guide her how to resolve differences in a peaceful manner.
  5. Be a role model: If you want your child to learn to handle his emotions in a healthy manner, and also, stay calm and composed, you need to model it for him. The words you choose to express your disagreement, the way you behave when you are angry, your body language — all send important messages to your child. So, be careful of how you behave around your child, and when he is not present, as well. Also, practice non-violence in your everyday interactions with your child. You can do this by not hitting or using harsh language with your child.

Today, more than ever, we need to celebrate Gandhi Jayanthi and tell our children about the Father of our Nation. But, let us also consciously teach our little ones about his principle of non-violence which the world so badly needs today.

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