“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.” – G.K. Chesterton
In our world today, it seems like it’s countercultural to be patriotic. There are so many (legitimate!) issues happening and being fought over in the United States and beyond that patriotism is at an all-time low.
There was even a news article recently where a WWII veteran stated: “This is not the country we fought for, that so many died for,” before beginning to break down in tears.
Coming from a family with a rich history in military service, this is hard to grasp. Alicia’s dad is a Marine veteran of the Vietnam war and both Mike and Alicia have multiple siblings, in-laws and other family members who have also served.
So, we asked them: How do you raise patriotic kids?
In our most recent podcast, we asked three couples who are currently serving in the military, and who happen to be listeners, how they raise their children with a sense of patriotism.
What it really came down to was intentionality, respect and a family culture that embraced service.
What is Patriotism?
The first thing to understand in raising patriotic kids is that patriotism is a virtue. It’s defined by having a love and respect for your country and those that live in and serve it. It needs to be nurtured and supported as children grow, just like humility or justice.
Patriotism is a reasonable respect for your country which extends to those who serve in both public offices and in the military, even if you disagree with them politically.
However, there is a line that often gets misunderstood between some forms of nationalism and patriotism. Our country is not perfect and yet, in patriotism, we can accept the imperfections and history with respect, and work to make improvements.
So how to we instill patriotism in our children?
Patriotism and Service in Your Family Culture
When we asked military families and veterans about raising patriotic kids, the most talked-about answer was intentionality.
If you want to instill the virtue of patriotism in your children, you need to do so intentionally. Make it part of who you are as a family, in a “This is what the Hernons do…” kind of way. It sounds like a lot, but the way you do it doesn’t have to be a big deal.
You can tell stories of people you know who served in the military, highlighting the sacrifices they made and how cool it is that they had the opportunity to serve their country.
Teach your children the history of our country. Not just names and dates (how boring!) but tell it like a story, like Grandma does when she’ll sharing something someone did at a family party.
Read books about your country’s history and don’t leave out the mistakes. We can all learn from them and it shows your kids that our country can be great while also being imperfect.
Is there an important American holiday coming up? Plan to do something to celebrate! You could go to a parade (or plan a neighborhood one!), sing the national anthem together in front of a flag in your yard or visit a military cemetery to pray for those who died to protect our freedoms.
Respect for the Flag and for Veterans
Another answer we heard a lot when it came to raising patriotic kids was respect for the flag and for veterans.
The American flag represents what our veterans fight for – freedom, family, and country – and should be respected. This is something we can easily do at home that will help us in raising patriotic kids.
Put an American flag in the yard or on the porch. Learn the symbolism and story behind the flag and tell that story to your children. Give your older children responsibility when it comes to caring for the flag (there are rules!).
If you’re at a sporting event, the national anthem will probably be played. Put your right hand over your heart and sing along! Modeling that respect of the flag for your children goes a long way in their learning to respect it too!
When it comes to veterans, pray for them! If you see someone in uniform, thank them for serving their country. They sacrifice more than most of us understand in their service, including time with their families and control over certain aspects of their lives. They see these things as worth sacrificing in exchange for peace and security for all.
A simple thank you, while small, really does make a difference to our veterans!
Model, Model, Model!
Raising patriotic kids is important and is something you can do in small ways every day. Learning our country’s history, respecting veterans and honoring the flag are simple ways to can model patriotism to our children.
We all know that kids learn so much by watching what their parents do, so if you want your kids to be patriots, be one yourself!
Want to hear more on this topic? Check out our most recent podcast episode!
Need some help in deciding what your family culture should look like? Join us for our upcoming Family Board Meeting workshop. You can check out all the details and sign up right here.