Patriotism. What is patriotism? Googling it gave me a definition: the quality of being patriotic; devotion to and vigorous support for one’s country. Not exactly helpful. I’ve heard that Pinterest is becoming one of the most widely used “search engines” so I decided to check there. I was greeted by a few quotes about patriotism, some cute patriotic outfits, and a whole slew of beautiful red, white, and blue craft ideas for adults and children. But it didn’t really have any good answers about how to instill or foster patriotism in our children.
I came across a thought provoking quote on Pinterest. It read:Patriotism…is not short frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime. Adlai Stevenson II Click To Tweet
So I decided to sit and really think about what patriotism means and how we can bring that to life in our family, not just on the day we don our red, white, and blue, enjoy picnics or parades, and sit in awe at beautiful bursts of firework displays. But how do we foster patriotism, as a true love for our country? I thought maybe some of you might like to spend some time thinking about how you might encourage this in your family as well. So here are a few ideas to get you started.
Four Ways to Foster Patriotism in Your Family—
Focus on what freedom really means.
The other day, I was busy mothering and handed something to my littlest that he was not pleased with. I’m guessing it was a blue bowl when he wanted a red bowl, or a red bowl when he wanted the blue?! I’m guessing some of you understand the struggle?! It changes by the day!! At any rate, I gave him a helpful redirection and said, “Don’t forget…give thanks in all things!” He mumbled the words and then paused. I knew the pause. I’ve seen it before. A question was about to pop out!
“Hey Mom, what does it mean, anyway… ‘give thanks in all things’?” I anticipated the question, because I have seen our other kids get to this point where they really want to understand the things we say or do, better. It’s as if their mouths utter the words but their hearts and minds might not truly grasp the concept just yet. They are taking the time to begin understanding the truths we live by.
Many times, children are expected to know and understand things that have never been explained or shown to them. In this way, I think it is important to revisit the basics. As this applies to freedom, does your child really grasp the meaning of the word? I think we need a two-fold approach to this. We need to talk about freedom from an early age, maybe before we even think they really grasp the concept. Then, as the word becomes familiar, they seek to find a richer meaning for it. At this point, we begin to have intentional discussions about it.
Early dialog might be as simple as the following:
- I just love our country.
- Our country is where we live and enjoy life!
- I am so glad we get to make choices in our country.
- I am so thankful that we are free to go to church.
- I am thankful we live in this country.
Then, as they start getting older, we can start talking about the freedom we can, and do experience. Some of those statements might lead to conversations and questions such as the following:
- Did you know that some countries do not have freedom?
- Can you imagine what it would be like if we didn’t have freedom?
- What are you most thankful that our country gives us or allows us?
- What does freedom mean to you?
- How might we appreciate our country every day and not just on patriotic holidays?
Learn about the history and symbols of our country.
We can all think of those iconic symbols that surround our idea of patriotism—Liberty Bell, Statue of Liberty, the Flag, bald eagle, the Great Seal, Mount Rushmore, etc. But there are also some very interesting facts about these things that might even be new to you! Like did you know the following fun facts:
- The Statue of Liberty was a gift to our country from France.
- They argued for six years before they agreed on the bald eagle for the national bird.
- The liberty bell was actually melted down and remade but still not what they wanted.
- Uncle Sam may have been derived from the life story of a man in a family of 13 who had many nieces and nephews?
- The pledge was started after a movement for school children to send in pennies to buy flags. Then they wanted something all children could do together with the flags.
- The figures on Mt. Rushmore were originally going to waist level but the rock was not suitable that low for carving.
- Designing The White House started as a contest with 9 entries and a $500 prize.
- Both the Washington Memorial and The Capitol were designed by contest entries and money prizes as well.
- These and many other fun facts can be found at brownielocks.com/patrioticsymbols.html.
Sometimes, as our knowledge about things grows, we begin to see why it really matters. We begin to see it in a whole new way. And a good awareness is essential to the next step…Appreciation!
Appreciate the sacrifice others make for our freedoms.
How often do we stop and think about the sacrifices others are making for our freedom? I can answer for myself…not often enough. I sit in my warm home, safe from harm, able to protect myself in different ways, able to speak and worship as I choose. The list goes on. Oftentimes, I forget about the forefathers that fought for our country, worked tireless hours to set up a system of government and rights that would be in our best interest, and the numerous soldiers who even this day are fighting in remote areas of the world for us to have our freedoms and protection here at home in the United States.Maybe pausing to appreciate what a day in the life of a president, soldier, or pioneer of this country would have been like would cause us to remember all that others have given for us. Click & Tweet!
In addition to the sacrifice of those unique individuals, there are also numerous sacrifices on the part of their families. Imagine the hours of family time that get lost when a soldier is deployed to serve his country. Do we give enough to honor those making the sacrifices? I can hardly imagine that even being remotely possible. Have you brought this to the attention of your child? Do they realize that there are some children who don’t get their mommy or daddy home to tuck them in at night because they are out there protecting us.
This is another area that we may assume our children just understand. But maybe some intentional conversations need to take place to let them start genuinely appreciating what that freedom is and what is necessary to attain it. We saw a group of soliders the other day and my littlest son, who is three, asked, “Is he a bad guy? Will he hurt me?” I immediately assured him, “Honey, those are soldiers. They train and work to protect our country and keep us safe.”
“Oh, well then they are the good guys!” he exclaimed. Yes, of course. But I felt slightly embarrassed that I had not taken time to explain that to him already. I want my children to have a clear understanding of those who give a lot for the love of our country, and in turn, be inspired to give in whatever way they might be able. Which of course leads me to my last point.
Give back as a way to show honor.
Of course not all of us are called, able, or feel the desire to be a soldier. And that is ok. But I hardly think that they are the only ones that should be exercising a love for their country. Do you actively look for ways that you can give back? Are you looking for ways that you can model or teach your child to give back? In the busyness of hectic lives and full schedules, we may think that is an area that can wait. But truly, I think this is an area that just takes a little time and thought to achieve. It is totally doable and very important.Even simple acts of service model for a children our willingness to give of ourselves, our time, or resources to make a difference. Click & Tweet!
There are a couple things our family likes to do randomly for those who are serving our country. We watch for them in the drive through or even where they get haircuts. If at all possible, we like to cover their tab by asking someone to just deliver the message that their bill has been covered by someone who appreciates their service for our country. I have to admit that I always wish I could see their face or surprise, but it is a fun little way to give back and with no string attached. The kids think it is fun, and it is not something that takes a big chunk of time or effort. Granted, this is just a small, small gesture, but what simple things might your family be able to do to give back. Don’t waste time waiting for the perfect opportunity, start now, start small…and just do it!
I think of the famous quote: Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.—John F. Kennedy
So whether it’s the Fourth of July, Veteran’s Day, Memorial day, Election Day, or all the ordinary days in between, let’s think of how we might be raising the next generations to truly value their country. Let’s motivate them to honor, protect, and give back to it with a true sense of devotion. Let’s help instill in them a pride that swells when they hear the anthem, stands tall and proud for the pledge of allegiance, and desires to serve and give for the sake of the country and future generations to enjoy the freedom that has so graciously been passed on to us.
Need a handy cheat sheet of ways to practice patriotism? I will attach a link right here! Pick what you might enjoy doing with your family but remember…this is not just on national holidays! We aren’t in search of frenzied emotions, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime!