Waving American flag with sun shining behind it.

Inspiring Patriotism in our Kids, Part One 

Because we all recently celebrated Memorial Day and now look forward to our July 4th celebration, I thought it might be timely to invite my readers to consider what patriotism is all about and how we can inspire our children to become patriotic. (Note: This is Part One to invite you to consider what patriotism is all about.  Part Two coming next week will provide specific suggestions on ways you can promote patriotism in your kids and other family members including in you.)

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, patriotism is love for or devotion to one’s country. Diving a little deeper into defining patriotism, I discovered The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy where in an article in 1993, philosopher Stephen Nathanson expanded the classic definition of  patriotism.  He said it involves:

  • Special affection for one’s own country
  • A sense of personal identification with the country
  • Special concern for the well-being of the country
  • Willingness to sacrifice to promote the country’s good

I think those of us who consider ourselves to be patriotic towards our United States and its form of government can resonate with these expanded definitions.

Why is it important to be patriotic? And why do we need to inspire our children to embrace their own sense of and actions that demonstrate patriotism?

Most of us know from what history taught us, that on July 4, 1776, Congress voted to accept the Declaration of Independence, marking July 4th as Independence Day. We declared our self free from the tyranny of the British. Once we declared our independence we went to war against the British. The American Revolutionary war lasted just over seven years until the British surrendered.

The Americans who decided to declare our independence were our first patriots. They devoted and sacrificed themselves in order that we would have the freedom we enjoy today.

Since 1776, we have been a country working hard to maintain the values espoused in the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution. The messages of patriotism are passed on from parents, grandparents and other family members to children in the hope and expectation that they too will one day pass these along to their children. It is the only way we can maintain our collective belief in a country founded on freedom.

In addition to promoting patriotism in our own families, we hope messages of patriotism are also presented in our schools. However, there is a problem: there has been a great decline in classes on Civics courses that once were required, courses that would provide the many details of our country’s history and design. According to the National Education Association, “Until the 1960s, it was common for American high school students to have three separate courses in civics and government. But civics offerings were slashed as the curriculum narrowed over the ensuing decades, and lost further ground to “core subjects” under the NCLB-era standardized testing regime.

When we consider how many people risk their lives to come into our country, we can appreciate why they are so determined to come here, to be able to live the American dream and give their children a future here. I know many of us have opinions about what is happening politically around the influx of immigrants. I am only encouraging us to appreciate how many people love what our values and laws offer to all our citizens.

Patriotism is more than a feeling. In addition to our passion that results from our patriotism it includes the ways we express our gratitude for the values, laws, and many opportunities we experience as a result of how our country was designed back in the 1800s. This is a great time of year to take inventory as individuals, families, and communities on ways we can promote our patriotism and inspire our kids to become more patriotic too.

Invitation for Reflection

  1. When you consider the ways philosopher Stephen Nathanson expanded the classic definition of patriotism, can you think of specific ways you have expressed your patriotism for each of these?
  2. What can you do to promote a return of Civics to our classrooms? Who can you invite to join you in this endeavor?
  3. What do you notice in yourself when you consider how patriotic you are and how you express that patriotism?
  4. How do your children, grandchildren or other family members respond when you ask them to describe how they express their patriotism?