Mahatma Gandhi and Parenting: My Life Is My Message

When Mohandas Gandhi was in England, in the midst of his non-violent struggle as the leader of his people

to retake power and control from the British and return it to his countrymen,

he was interviewed by a reporter as he boarded a train, preparing to return to India to continue his efforts.  

A microphone was thrust at Gandhi and the reporter inquired, “Mr. Gandhi, what is your message? 

Gandhi’s response was, “My life is my message.” 

For Gandhi there was  no distinction between what he believed, what he did and who he was…


 There are wonderful lessons to be drawn from this quote by parents of all faiths, beliefs and persuasions; after all, parents are the most singularly important element in the lives of their children. Yet children learn more from watching what their parents do than by simply listening to what their parents say; non-verbal behavior always trumps verbal explanations;  we all are familiar with the quote regarding “walking the talk.” 

Well-intentioned parents of all walks of life know how difficult it is to sometimes carry out what they desire to philosophically accomplish when raising their children. The “real world stresses” of being in the world, making a living, attending to the varied and assorted daily responsibilities that constantly intrude on and vie for our attention is an undeniable, often undesirable reality we all must accept and address.  These stresses typically add to the already complex role we play as parents, and take away from the available energy necessary to be the parents we want to be, to be the parents we ought to be.  

There is no getting around the primary role that we as parents play in the lives of our children. It is a responsibility that cannot be supplanted by relying on others to assume that status. It is unrealistic to believe that anyone other than ourselves can somehow be a “stand in” for the unique relationship we have with our children and the position we embody as loving, trusted parents (although others, such as relatives, teachers, clergy, coaches, etc. can play meaningful or even as important roles when circumstances demand).  That is why as a coach, I choose to primarily work with parents; they are the gold standard when it comes to being the most meaningful, effective instruments for change in the lives of their children

The above statements or perspectives aren’t new, in fact they are quite ancient. An excellent example of this is in the form of another quote from Gandhi which he derived from the Buddhist  Dhammapada, an anthology of 423 verses that  has long been recognised as one of the masterpieces of early Buddhist literature. From ancient times to the present, the Dhammapada has been regarded as the most succinct expression of the Buddha’s teaching. Gandhi’s restatement of one of the Dhammapada’s core teachings is a as follows:

Keep your thoughts positive,

because your thoughts become your words.


Keep your words positive,

because your words become your behaviors.


Keep your behaviors positive,

because your behaviors become your habits.


Keep your habits positive,

because your habits become your values.


Keep your values positive,

because your values become your destiny.

Translated, it states simply, “walk the talk!”  Easier said than done!! As parents we all struggle to be or become the best parent we can be, but sometimes it is truly a struggle to do so.  It is not that we are not well-intentioned, loving parents; sometimes situations occur that are just not responsive to our best efforts to make them better. 

That is where coaching becomes both a meaningful and essential path to choose. Coaching provides both tools and methods, it provides an opportunity to increase our awareness regarding what is and isn’t working, it adds a perspective/point of view which sits outside of our own typical patterns of living our daily lives, coaching facilitates our becoming aware of, abandoning and learning new ways of being as a parent, one that supports our desire to escape outmoded or ineffectual ways of parenting, often remnants of our own childhood. Because no matter how relevant those methods might have been for our parents, they often strain against the realities of our current situations. 

This shift in how we parent can only occur when we are willing to first examine and then abandon what doesn’t work, replacing those outmoded even if well-intentioned methods for what does work. We can accomplish this when we become more effective parents, when change ourown patterns of parenting, when we  recognize that our own experiences and perceptions as children growing up in our own families of origin are overly influencing, ineffectively influencing how we parent…but our current family is not our family of origin and this shift in awareness then allows us to accept and keep what works and let loose of what might be heartfelt, genuine and sincere, perhaps even sentimentally attached… but which is ineffective.

Two final quotes from Gandhi will end this current composition; they also speak eloquently to where we could set our sights on arriving as parents with some effort and awareness.  The first is:


And in a perceptive comment that was true in his day and continues to resonate in our current society;


Call us if we can assist you in acquiring the tools and perspectives that will allow you to fulfill your rightful, effective role as parents; I wish you well! 

Your responses to this blog posting, as always, are both welcome and appreciated; I will respond to your questions, comments and emails as time permits…they will be answered

Take care…and stay positive!


Timeless Truths for Parents & Their Children

Golden Rules for Living

BY Miriam Hamilton Keare

1.   If you open it, close it. 

2.   If you turn it on, turn it off. 

3.   If you unlock it, lock it up. 

4.   If you break it, admit it. 

5.   If you can’t fix it, call someone who can. 

6.   If you borrow it, return it. 

7.   If you value it, take care of it. 

8.   If you make a mess, clean it up. 

9.   If you move it, put it back.

10. If it belongs to someone else, get permission to use it. 

11.  If you don’t know how to operate it, leave it alone. 

12. If it’s none of your business, don’t ask questions.

Some Coaching Suggestions for Parents Uncertain as to Where to Start and What to Do

1) Whose Problem Is it?

  • Is the topic of focus more important to you than it is for the child? 
  • If you are looking at problems you are experiencing as lying solely in the domain of the child (i.e. the problem is solely the child’s problem, you are missing the role you are playing in creating, shaping or maintaining the unacceptable behavior(s). 
  • Remember, “It takes two to tango! 

 2) Is it an issue of trust versus control?

  • Each has very different implications for how one chooses to manage it, and has particular applicability and relevance in blended or divorced families regarding which individual (parent or step-parent) has the “standing” to influence matters of trust. Which often results in parents trying to influence their child’s behavior through the use of control (which in and of itself often over time devolves into punishment…). 

3) You can only control your own behavior.

  • Control is an ineffective tool for parents to employ to manage non-compliant behavior, and again, often results in taking things away or punishment versus more effective strengths-based methods.. 

4) What is the goal you are trying to achieve?

  • Please ask yourself: long term or “in the moment, ” how are the methods you have chosen influencing and communicating your intent? 

5) How a parent:

  • thinks about an issue or problem 
  • personally understands an issue or problem 
  • believes that our concern(s) are logical and make sense does NOT mean that your position also registers with and makes sense to the child. 
  • Just because a parent can explain the problem does not mean that the child will understand or be able to accept it as a problem for which they can or should take responsibility.

Of course, this issue is significantly influenced by the developmental age of the child (which might not always match their chronological age), their emotional age, and any related learning challenges, such as the presence of non-verbal learning disabilities, auditory processing problems, or other learning disabilities or developmental challenges.

6) Focus on how you do what you do!

  • Your parenting methods have a much greater influence on successful outcomes than do your good intentions, belief in your authority or any other philosophy in which you may believe.

7) If your methods at intervening result in the problem behavior(s) increasing, you are by definition reinforcing the very behavior(s) you are trying to decrease or eliminate!

8) Pay attention to how you deliver BOTH positive AND negative attention to your child! 9) Can the child do what you are asking him/her to do? How do you know?

There are many more things to know to become an effective strengths-based parent. Have Questions? Feel free to contact me!

Take care…and stay positive!