I believe that we must begin early if we are to raise patriotic children. We live in one of the greatest countries in the world, and it is our responsibility as parents to ensure that our children know all we can teach them about our great nation’s history, its present, and its future. To grow good citizens of our country and our world, we must show them how to function in the family, in their small group of friends, in their early school years, and eventually in their communities.
Most Americans’ hearts swell when hearing, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and our eyes fill with tears as we watch our soldiers return home from war zones. Our pride and compassion come from our understanding of the struggles that brought our great nation to its place in the world today. We did not learn everything on our own that we needed to know to become great citizens … and neither will our children. To raise patriotic children, we must be purposeful and intentional. What do you want your children to know about the United States of America? Here are a few thoughts:
1. Even very young children can learn the Pledge of Allegiance. Teach them to stand tall with their hands over their hearts and face the flag as they say the pledge.
2. Consider having a birthday party for our country. Children can easily understand this concept, and it might become a much anticipated summer tradition in your family.
3. Seize the teachable moments and define them for your child:
a. Participate with your child in cleaning up a city park and explain that this is “being a good citizen.”
b. Show your child real-life heroes. Plan a trip to the airport and wave flags to welcome home soldiers who have served our country.
c. Teach your child the art of conflict resolution in the home. This is crucial to becoming a good citizen.
d. When you see someone disobeying the law, find an appropriate moment to explain to your child why it is important that we have laws in our country, city, community, and family. Just remember that the younger the child, the simpler the explanation.
4. Plan trips to the cities, monuments, national forests, and other places that you believe are important to your children’s patriotic growth. Introduce these sites by reading about them long before you actually invest in traveling to them. Remember that travel isn’t always necessary—you can go so many places with books. Just because you cannot travel does not mean you cannot nurture a deep appreciation in your children for the great places in our nation.
I hope that each and every one of you has a safe and very happy 4th of July!