With firework stands popping out like gnats on a rotten banana, in preparation for our country’s celebration of its freedom, I got to thinking about that word, “freedom.” Patriotism is really all about being grateful that we live in a free country.
Freedom and responsibility go hand-in-hand and it’s up to us to raise responsible citizens of our free country. I remember my mom saying, “Raising children is like holding the reins on a fine horse. If you give the horse too much slack, it’ll run wild, pull back too tightly (being too strict) and it won’t go forward.”
The 4th of July was a big deal to my mom and she instilled such a love for my country in me. As an American, I asked myself, ‘why am I patriotic? I came up with these 5 tips. Hey, I figure if they worked on me, they could probably work on any kid.
1. Teach respect for the flag
My parents loved our flag and treated it with the upmost respect, causing me to do the same. When my husband and I built our home, I insisted on a flag pole and I cherish it every day.
I remember once as a teenager, my mom embarrassed me over the flag. She’d been watching me swim at the community pool. The viewing section was on the second floor so spectators could get a better view of the swimmers. While watching, she was distracted by some red, white and blue material on the floor of a storage closet at the end of the room. It was an American flag.
I got out of the pool just in time to see her ranting and raving at the front desk.
“Where’s the janitor?” she demanded of the woman behind the counter.
“He’s on break.”
“You get him off break right now! There’s an American flag on the floor upstairs in that storage room and I want to talk to him about it!”
“Oh, no, Mam, that’s not a flag, it’s bunting that goes around the pool when we have swim meets.”
“Bunting my butt, it’s a flag!”
At that point she grabbed my hand and we marched up to the storage closet, where she pulled the flag out and lead me back downstairs. I recall a crowd starting to gather. We proceeded to fold the very large flag into a triangle starting with the striped end, as she ranted on about the lack of respect this public facility had for our flag. Once in a star-studded triangle, she slammed the flag down on the counter and we walked out.
It wasn’t until 9/11 that I understood my mom’s passion over the symbol of our great country. My dad was in the military in WW II and my parents sacrificed a great deal for our country. I’d been the beneficiary of that sacrifice, but I didn’t really understand how my mom felt until that horrible day.
Patriotism involves honoring and respecting our flag and we need to teach our children to respect it, but true patriotism is more than waving the flag, and shooting off fireworks on the fourth. Patriotism for our democracy goes deeper.
2. Think out loud
Our democracy survives because we have a self-disciplined population. When we are responsible citizens, we teach our children by example. Let your kids know your thoughts. When you’re driving to soccer, talk to yourself. You could say, “I sure would like to speed, ‘cause we’re gonna be late to practice, but I’d better mind the speed limit.” Or, “The cashier handed me too much money back. Since I’m honest, there’s no way I could keep it. It was so fun to give it back!"
3. Let them choose
In a democracy, the people get to decide. Kids, who aren’t allowed to make decisions when they’re young, will lack the skills essential for making wise decisions when they’re adults.
When my son Michael was 12, he went to live with my sister and her husband in Washington so Michael could start school on time. I stayed back in California with my husband and two daughters to sell our home and pack for the move.
My sister asked Michael, “Since I don’t know what it’s like to have a 12 year-old (her kids were five months, 16 months and two years), I don’t really know what your mom and dad’s rules are. You’re going to have to tell us what they’d approve of when each situation comes up.”
I was so proud of Michael, for he knew exactly what I would expect of him and was honest with his aunt and uncle.
You can start encouraging decision making at a very early age by asking, "Would you like a hardboiled egg or a fried egg?" Or, "Do you want to walk this way, or that way?" When children get older the choices will be different. “Do you want your curfew to be 8:30 or 9:00?”
Keep the options to just a few. Giving children too many choices can be overwhelming.
4. Let mistakes happen
As your children grow up, so do the consequences of their bad decisions. Children make plenty of small mistakes when they’re young, and those small mistakes give them wisdom and self-control to avoid larger ones when they're older. Allow your children to make plenty of mistakes, so they can experience the consequences of them and minimize the bigger ones.
The seeds of wisdom and self-discipline are planted when children see that their poor decisions lead to uncomfortable consequences. Unfortunately, some parents destroy the teaching value of consequences by trying to protect them from consequences. Parents, who fail to provide consequences, grow people who think they can get away with murder.
Parents, who do provide consequences but do it in ager, raise kids who reason, "When I’m naughty, it makes other people really mad. Next time, I'd better not get caught." Not surprisingly, these children lack self-control and require constant supervision.
Deliver consequences with sincere sadness and compassion and your kids will reason, "When I act naughty it makes my life sad.” The quality of our lives depends on the decisions we make and children can understand this at a very early age.
5. Speak softly
As moms, we are the ones who teach our kids the basics in life. We teach them to walk, dress, eat with utensils, talk, wipe, tie shoes, and the list goes on and on. Unless we are mute, we use speech. Unfortunately, over time, our voices become so familiar our kids can tune us out. Getting louder doesn’t work, because louder is usually accompanied by anger. A soft voice works wonders. So use your freedom of speech with a soft voice and you’ll raise wonderful, patriotic citizens.
In Sidetracked Home Executives: from pigpen to paradise, I wrote what I call the Mother’s Creed:
I added, “What do you do,” because I believe every job on earth pales to being a mom. Thank you for reading my blog and thank you for being a mom. Please share my blog with all your mom friends.