Synopsis: Patriotism is many things to many people--but to a child, it is about love. It is the art of loving the soil, the land, and the legacy of one's country's finest points. How do you instill into a child patriotism when you, as an adult, may have different views of what it means? How do you protect a child from starting life with a slant on patriotism that may harm his or her belief system later on? In essence, how do you be a Parent or Grandparent of Vigilance regarding patriotism, so that a child feels safe and secure in the arms of his or her country's history and its potential? Here's G-Ma Lori's way of imparting patriotism to her grandchildren.


Can You Teach Your Child To Be Patriotic?


“A-A-A-merica, ‘merica, God shed HisnHer grace on thee and crowned thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea….”

“G---------MA! Can you make Sarah be quiet. She won’t stop singing that song and it’s making me sick.” Matt squinched his face up looking more like a wizened old ninety-nine-year-old than a wholesome eight-year-old.

“G-Ma, I just l-o-o-o-o-ve the ‘merica song” sing-songed Sarah, his six-year-old sister. She flitted around the small toy-strewn apartment like a butterfly in a flower-festooned garden; slowing to light onto the couch then to a sturdy bench that served the dual purpose of a toy chest.

“Arghhhhh!!! She doesn’t even sing it right! There’s no ‘HER’ in the song. At least she could sing it right, G-Ma.” Matt flounced onto the couch almost squishing his two-year-old brother Angus who had been playing hide and seek with me.

“Matt, Matt, calm down. Sarah is getting excited for school to start and is just singing the words of some of the school songs so she can be prepared for music class.”

Sarah flitted about like a butterfly

I scooted between Matt and Angus so Angus could breathe better after his crunching by Matt.

Sarah chirps like a songbird. But, during the summer, her interests have been more in swimming, biking, and playing on the monkey bars at the local East Village park. Yesterday’s shopping for school clothes trip with her mom engaged her inner musical metronome.

Quick to defuse the Beast of Arguments between siblings, I reasoned it was time for a diversion to avoid the inevitable squabbling when three little ones attempt to play in very close quarters.

Sarah came to the rescue. “Matt, let’s play school and I’ll be the teacher. You can be Mr. Light, the Principal. ‘Member you like to be him. Angus can be one of the kids sent to the Principal for…..umm…..pinching…”

Sarah settled on pinching since Angus has been tormenting us with his current bad habit of twisting people’s flesh between his thumb and forefinger.

“Only if I get to be in charge, Sarah. No singing. No Pledge of Allegiance and America songs…And no homework assignments. Then I’ll play.”

Matt did not want to play "Pledga- legions" with Sarah

Matt moved toward their school desk and chair into the ‘teacher’s spot’ so designated as part of our ‘let’s-play-school’ living room set. Matt perennially has to be bribed into playing. He bellows his protestations vociferously whenever he thinks about school and especially the drudgery of homework.

Sarah rang the school bell (an old brass bell that has been in her Daddy Joe’s family for many years) and attempted to lower her voice into the ‘in charge’ range. “ It’s time for the ‘Pledga-legions’. Everyone --- all together.”

“Sarahhhhhhh….we don’t have to say that…..and…we’re not singing America either.” Matt’s rolled his eyes toward me. “G-Ma, Sarah promised. I am not playing.”

Matt jumped from his ‘principal chair’ and stomped out of the room into the bedroom.

“Awww…… oh, G-Ma. Will you play with me?,” Sarah pleaded. “We’ve got the classroom all set up and everything. Even Angus is ready.”

Angus, all two-plus years of him, was plopped in the middle of a ‘class’ of Sarah’s favorite dollies and an array of stuffed animals. He looked like ET in Drew Barrymore’s closet in the movie with the same name.

Amidst the array of stuffed animals, Angus looked like ET

“Angus, stand up it’s time to say the ‘Pledga-legions’ and sing. G-Ma, I hope Angus goes to Sister Lucy’s school where Matt and I went. I miss it so.”

Sarah vainly attempted to pull Angus from the pile of toys. His stuffed classmates toppled backwards like soft dominoes with smiling faces and black button eyes staring at the ceiling. I thought about Sister Lucy at the Montessori preschool and how she embossed upon all the children in her care a sense of patriotism even as their diaper rashes were fading.

Both Sarah and Matt attended a Montessori pre-school

Both Sarah and Matt had attended Sister Lucy’s Catholic Montessori pre-school. Montessori is richly vested in the philosophy of helping children and their caregivers all over the world create beautiful educational environments fostering creativity, independence of thought and action, a positive self-image, joy and a spirit of service to others and the environment.

Sister Lucy enhanced the Montessori philosophy with her religious emphasis and strong patriotic punctuation

Sister Lucy enhanced that philosophy with her religious emphasis and a strong punctuation on patriotism.

I grew up in Catholic schools and believe childrens’ introduction to and knowledge of patriotism--especially in times when political factions tear at the fabric of our nation’s good and bad--gives a child a foundation he or she can use later on in life when the value of one’s country and its legacy is put to the test.

At Sister Lucy’s Montessori school, the President of the United States’ picture is displayed in a place of honor in each classroom. Every school day starts with the Pledge of Allegiance and the singing of America. The American Flag takes up half of one of the walls.

Sarah took this patriotic pre-school training to heart, possibly because she is the more musical of the two. Her older brother doesn’t have an ear for music. Matt is a rebel by nature, regardless of the subject. He will refuse to eat if he isn’t in the mood, argue about going to Coney Island to ride rides, and generally refute about anything that might be good for him if he isn’t “into it.”
Honoring the flag or his country isn’t high on his list of things to do. Yugio cards were, now transformers are, and watching Cartoon Network always trumps everything, including his favorite book, Calvin and Hobbes.

Sarah quickly sketched a picture of the American flag

His self-exile into the bedroom was not uncommon. He had his Calvin and Hobbs book—what more could an eight-year-old want?
Sarah, on the other hand, was in Patriotic Heaven as we began our “school play.” She quickly sketched a picture of the American flag (art is another of her many talents inherited from her lovely mother) and scotch-taped it up on the wall. She directed 26-month-pold Angus to stand in front of it with us.

“Now Angus, say what I say after I say it. “I pledge ‘llegiance to the flag………………..”

My heart sang as I listened to my two love-bugs, one reciting and one attempting, the Pledge of Allegiance

My heart sang as I listened to my two love-bugs, one reciting and the other attempting to recite, our country’s vow of loyalty. Angus’ enunciation needed a lot of help and Sarah was doing her best to assist him. When they finished, Sarah started to sing ‘America’ and again urged Angus to chirp the words after she completed a line or two.

“Arghhhh…….Sarah…….G-Ma…….I can’t concentrate with all your noise. Why can’t you begin ‘real’ school. Enough with the yucky gravy.”

Matt yelled out his protest from the kids’ bedroom. (Matt’s latest witticism was incorporating the word ‘gravy’ meaning a benefit or an excess of what is required or needed).

“We’re off to ‘reading, writing and arithmetic’ Matt. Are you sure you don’t want to join us?”

I poked my head into the bedroom and chuckled at Matt’s gangly body splayed out on the bottom bunk with his head in one of his many Calvin and Hobbes cartoon books. Matt’s favorite ‘sports’ is reading and he is famous for his quick wit as well as reading at the playground.

Matt was only playing if we read from his Calvin and Hobbes book

“I’m only going to join you if we read from my' Homicidal Psycho Jungle Cat' book during story time.” His brilliant blue eyes flashed me one of his superior Matt looks as he lowered his Calvin and Hobbes paperback book and surprised me with a “please, G-Ma, lets read my book and not one of Sarah’s…..please?”

“I think that can be arranged, Matt. Roll on out and join us. I’ll prepare Miss Sarah.” I thought for a moment how to lure Matt into play. “Angus enjoys looking at the cartoons and since we so far have followed Sarah’s lead, its your turn to be in charge, Matt. I’ll just tell her you are Calvin, the bratty kid who wants everything his own way and she’ll understand.”

Matt can laugh at himself most of the time and this was one of them. He spun off the top bunk and dropped softly onto the floor, his lean body compact tiger and the sound of his feet landing as soft as a jungle cat descending from a limb.

“Sarah, we have a new plan for our school day. Matt will read to us from one of his books. I think that will work out fine.”

I always phrase my wishes to the kids “I think that will work out fine.” It covers a lot of ground and they know that’s what is probably going to happen. I know how easy to “tell” and “dictate” to children. It’s the short version of parenting. “You get out here right now and play, or else!”

But, I try to be a Grandparent of Vigilance. I try to not use my power as an adult to “tell” or “brow beat,” but instead to cajole and excite a child into doing good things. It’s frustrating at times, but in the long run, the children will learn to respect their own children hopefully, and realize they don’t have to stick a gun of authority to people’s heads to cause them to do what needs to be done.

“Fine, G-Ma,” Matt said. “First I want to know about what you did in school when you were a little girl my age. Did you sing ‘merica and songs like that.”

We all plopped on the couch. I sat with Matt and Sarah on either side of me and sturdy Angus, with his summer-tanned body crowned with sun-bleached light-gold hair, was surprisingly content to cozy on my lap. I began my “patriotic qualification.”

I grew up in a very patriotic family and town and marched in parades to honor our country

“I grew up in a very patriotic family and town in Montana. Patriotism is love of America and to show their love my little town held parades on Veteran’s Day, the Fourth of July, and Memorial Day. Everyone participated in the parades—grandmas, grandpas, mommies, daddies, children, even babies.”

“Wow, G-Ma were you in the parade?” Matt and Sarah simultaneously questioned.

“ Well, let’s see…..I was in the parades starting when I was six – your age, Sarah. I was in the Brownie Scouts. Your school offers that program as well as the Cub Scout program for the boys. The Scouts marched, those who served in the military – that is, the soldiers and sailors and some groups who belonged to some other clubs, also marched. The school bands from cities around our town joined in. Then we ended the parade in the town park.”

“Did G-Pa march? He was a marine.” Matt’s sea-blue eyes glittered with question marks.

“He grew up in a small town much like I did. I’m sure he marched in parades since his family was proud to be Americans like mine was. But we didn’t know each other then.” I continued with my “when I was a little girl” story.

"Great Grampa's name was on the Monument" Matt announced

“There were two war memorials in the city’s park honoring the war dead and those who served in the military from the town and surrounding countryside. My Dad’s, your Great-Grampa’s name, is on the World War II monument. We all recited the Pledge of Allegiance and sang the Star Spangled Banner.”

“G-Ma, I remember reading Great Grampa’s name on the monument. I had to show it to Sarah, since she can’t read.” Matt tossed out such zingers to get his sister’s goat whenever possible.

“I can too read, can’t I G-Ma?” Sarah’s brown eyes stormed.
“You’re learning, my little bird. You’re doing a fine job.” I patted her arm and soothed her girly feathers and continued.

“Before all the city ballgames, at school and before any public get-together everyone would recite the Pledge and sing The Star Spangled Banner or America with enthusiasm. Everyone participated. That’s how it was.”

Everyone participated in honoring the flag when I was a little girl

“I know what enthusiasm means, G-Ma.” Matt began…..
“’inthusiasm means with energy, G-Ma.” Sarah finished to Matt’s dismay.

“G-Ma, I wish she wouldn’t do that. I hate when she finishes off what I need to say. She does it all the time. Arghhhh!!!!! I don’t get credit for anything.” Matt threw himself off the couch onto the tiled floor.

“Hey, hey, both of you. I know you each know the answers to my questions. Matt, everyone knows you are so smart. Sarah is trying in her way to compete with your smarts and so she talks out when she should let you finish your statements. It’s her way of letting us know she knows answers like you do.” I tried to soothe his rasty cockscombs sticking up at the crown of his head like reminders he was wired to another world—the world of argument.

“Well, I don’t want her to do it with me…and what I say.” Matt’s feathers were beginning to ruffle down.

Matt's feathers were as ruffled as Calvin's hair

“Sorry, Matt.” Sarah shot her sly look at me that might have been captured by Bill Watterson the cartoonist for Calvin and Hobbes. For the moment, there was peace.

Sarah reminded me of the program held at her school last year for the Presidents' birthdays

“We had a song program last year for the Presidents’ birthdays, G-Ma. All the classes sang American songs. We had to practice for months.” Matt pointed his finger in his mouth to show what he thought of the practices.

“I loved it, G-Ma. I love music class and singing. We got to wear red, white and blue that day. Not our school uniforms. It was almost a ‘dress down’ day.” Sarah squeezed my hand to capture my attention.

I remember well the February performance they spoke of. It was called “Patriot’s Day” and it was wonderful. I was both amazed and grateful my grandchildren attended a school promoting traditional values in the middle of the layback, anything and everything goes, ecumenical East Village in New York City.

“Angus!!! No!!! G-Ma, help.” Matt struggled with Angus who had taken Matt’s precious Calvin and Hobbes book.

A sibling battle was imminent

A sibling battle was on the horizon. Angus was vying for his share of attention. The wrestling match between Matt and Angus abruptly ended the class on patriotism over Calvin and Hobbes. Angus began ripping some of the comic strips out of Matt’s book. School was definitely out for today.

My little patriotic bird Sarah demonstrated devotion to her city and country for many months after September 11, 2001. She witnessed the collapse of the first tower, and daily when I took her to and picked her up from her pre-school, we walked by a hair salon that lit candles as a tribute to those who perished. Sarah, with solemn delight, acknowledged the lit candles and one day when they weren't aglow said to me: "G-Ma, oh no! The candles aren't lit! The candles aren't lit! What will happen to the souls of the mommies and daddies who died? Will their souls go out, too?"

Sarah helped admire and care for the 'shrine to Joyce'

I gathered my little love in my arms and hugged her close. "Their souls will never go out, little one. We will always remember them."

I was relieved when the store proprietor took note and quickly lit the candles in their cherub candle holders. "Oh, G-Ma, look! I want the candles to stay lighted...even if souls never die." Sarah jumped down from the steps of the salon and skipped down the street looking like a sweet flower covered bunny.

Another instance of her innate sense of duty and compassion was the care she demonstrated in helping to care for the little 'shrine to Joyce' across the street from G-Pa's and my apartment on Seventh Street. Joyce Carpento, whom I never met, was a victim in the World Trade Center. She lived in the neighborhood and someone in her building put out candles and flowers and ultimately a bronze plaque in her memory. Sarah commented on the flowers, picked off dead ones, placed a few new ones in the vases. She even would talk to Joyce. On Halloween she was ecstatic. "G-Ma, look Joyce has a pumpkin. Oh that's so cool. I'll bet she really loves it."

These are exemplifications of patriotism...and from a then four-year-old.

I believe Patriotism is not a difficult concept. It simply means love and loyal support of one’s country. That same evening I decided to go to my old standby and found several official yet similar definitions for Patriotism:

pa·tri·ot·ism n.
Love of and devotion to one's country.
n : love of country and willingness to sacrifice for it [syn: nationalism]
\Pa"tri*ot*ism\, n. [Cf. F. patriotisme.] Love of country; devotion to the welfare of one's country; the virtues and actions of a patriot; the passion, which inspires one to serve one's country. --Berkley.

I realized my favorite definition falls into the third characterization. I am a devoted and passionate patriot. I also realize there are those good Americans who do not fall into the same circumscription. There are many ways to demonstrate patriotism.

I believe we need to pass on patriotism to future generations

But, to be a patriot, I believe one needs to thoroughly understand the foundations upon which this country was built, its traditions and for what it stands. It aggravates me so many Americans fail to understand the benefits of being an American. I am convinced it is the duty of an American to teach patriotism to their children and grandchildren as an act of National Vigilance. I also believe we must pass on patriotism to future generations so it will be preserved in all its glory—and that includes the right to protest as well as to support.

Today I can’t help but comment on what I consider to be the waning of Patriotism.

I am saddened when I see the flag denegrated both in and out of 'protests'

I see the flag continually being denigrated. The flag-waving and upsurge of national pride wore off several months after Nine Eleven. While at a Yankee ball game not long ago, I saw one of the parents of a young family remain seated during the playing of the National Anthem and presentation of the flag. He wasn’t attending to the needs of his children. He was protesting America with his deliberate slight.

It appeared to me he was ignoring the symbol of our freedom and setting a sad example for his children.

If Terrorism is the breeding of Fear, Intimidation and Complacency into a society, then the absence of patriotism must leave the door open for children to feel disenfranchised from the legacy of their land.

Respect for the American flag is demonstrated at ball games

Parents in nations such as America are born with rights that far outdistance those of most of the world, yet often such parents will decry America as ugly, horrible, a breeding ground for oppression and tyranny.

The recent protesters of the Republican Convention held endless “hate signs” aloft, broadcasting the ugliness of America to children as though the soil on which we all stand was infected with some malignant virus bent on destroying any one or any thing that didn’t fit our mold. The “hate America” message leaves a child abandoned from a sense of national pride and national appreciation.

The "hate" messages such as those at the demonstrations during the Republican National Convention leave America abandoned from national pride .....

Children need to feel a sense of belonging, in their family, their classrooms and their country. They thrive in an environment of respect, compassion and stability. If we teach our kids love, honor, compassion and respect for their country as well as for their fellow man, they will not only be graced by a sense of patriotism, they will become better citizens. One of our greatest challenges as parents and caregivers is to raise our children to be healthy, honorable adults. I believe a sense of patriotism is a good reinforcement of honor and ethics.

Babies learn kindness from our gentle touch and self-esteem by our praise and respect. Parents, grandparents cannot be complacent about their responsibilities to teach children to respect and be kind to others, to keep their community clean and hopefully to trust their country will defend and protect them as best as it can. My husband and I tried to instill a sense of patriotism in the hearts of our daughters, to honor the flag and stand up for what’s right and good about their country.

But what about the more difficult aspect of patriotism?
What about the right of dissent?
What about the roles, rights and responsibilities each of us holds as members of a democracy?

...and set a poor example for the children

My husband and I didn’t teach blind faith. One of our daughters chose a conservative path and the other a liberal one. The greatness of the Bill of Rights and Constitution should be preached. The founders of this country had ideals that were built on questioning authority not following blind faith. It is our right to question the government and to rebel if they become too powerful. After all, where would this nation be without dissent? Would there ever have been a Civil Rights Movement or a Women's Rights Movement if noone dared speak out and defend their rights and responsibilities as participants in this great democracy?

When I was growing up America’s citizens pledged their allegiance publicly. Men and boys removed their hats during the national anthem. Eyes were fixed on the flag and when the flag passed, we stood up. I miss it.

I miss the outpouring demonstrations of patriotism from my childhood

I often have a difficult time when I see especially the youth of today making anti-war and other “unpatriotic” remarks. But I have to remind myself I am witnessing democracy and patriotism in practice. And while American troops are fighting to “liberate” others thousands of miles away, some here are trampling over the free speech rights of those here on our soil.

My husband’s and my goal was to raise our daughters to stand up and speak out for what is right, even when others don’t join in. A child who knows it is possible to defend his own ideals and opinions while also respecting the rights of others to do the same.

This is a goal that can be accomplished when we send our kids the message that patriotism means not to stifle our rights to disagree. If our country wishes to rear a generation of bold and independent thinkers rather than silent followers, we must work to cultivate these qualities in our children at home and at school.

I feel satisfied my grandkids are moving in the right direction

I feel satisfied my grandkids are moving in the right direction and have a good part of the information necessary for them to be as patriotic as they feel it’s right for them for the moment and in the future. Right now, Sarah is on a roll and I love the path she’s chosen. I thought Matt wasn’t getting the right information, but I decided to try to pin him down between Yugioh cards and his transformer robots and converse with him on the subject of his love of country.
I asked him what he thought. Here is his answer.

“G-Ma, I love my country. I just don’t have to sing songs about it or talk about it all the time. My mom and dad let me make choices all the time. I can choose to be bad or good, nice or mean. That’s what mom tells me. But I have to live with my decisions and that’s the hard part. My Dad says that’s a ‘small taste of democracy at home’.”

Matt informed me there is 'democracy' in his home

Matt is very conscious of his rights and just a few days ago complained to his mother she was "violating his child rights" by making him go to school. My daughter assured him she would go to jail if she didn't make him go since children in America have the "right to education" and there is a law to that effect!

I think Sarah and Matt are on track

I think Sarah and Matt are on track. They may not be as Vigilant a patriot as I am, but they know respect for their country from their schools, their community. As their G-Ma, I can only continue to help them practice what’s right and good about their country and teach by my example that every person counts, no matter where they live or who they are.

We need our children to know they are the future parents and government of our country

We need our children to know they are a very large and integral part of our country. They are the future parents and government that will use Right Actions to uphold the morals and ethics with Courage and Conviction. I believe this love and honor for our country and our flag will transfer to mankind and the world.

I also believe the Pledge of Vigilance is as patriotic as any national pledge of allegiance. Instead of pledging for a flag or nation, the Pledge of Vigilance is inclusive. In incorporates all children in all nations.

If you want to be a “Super Patriot,” besides pledging to your nation’s past, present and future, try taking the Pledge of Vigilance and make a Vow of Vigilance to protect the children of the world from the threats of Terrorism.

No flag has more importance today than the Flag of Vigilance, but you be the judge. And, when you’re passing judgment, look at your children before you chose not to salute your flag or any other that represents the ultimate freedom of all children to live without the threat of Terrorism.

Below are additional tools obtained from to help you Parents, Grandparents, Uncles, Aunts and other caregivers ward off Complacency, Fear and Intimidation, increase your love of country, and pass it on to your loved ones.


From the “Parenting For Tolerance” site, Dana Williams listed suggestions to contribute to parents and teachers:

1. Help develop critical thinking skills. Ask kids "Why?" and "What if?" Encourage them to weigh all sides of an issue before forming an opinion, and to defend their views with facts rather than emotions. Provide them with tools and resources to gather information on their own.
2. Foster respect for different viewpoints and opinions. Encourage children to listen to what others have to say even when they don't agree. Help them understand different viewpoints by promoting awareness of diversity and by teaching about other cultures and belief systems. Discourage them from relying on stereotypes and from judging others based on their opinions.
3. Encourage public service and civic participation. Find out children's interests and involve them in related community service or volunteer opportunities, especially those that will expose them to the political process. Take them along when you vote and discuss the process. Visit a local county commission or city council meeting together, then point out and discuss the ways differing viewpoints are addressed.

Some ideas to help your kids appreciate the past and honor those who have fought to preserve our way of life.

1. Talk about the historical significance of the holiday you are celebrating. On the fourth of July, discuss some of the reasons for the American Revolution. Why did the founding fathers want to break off from England? Did they know that the "declaration" was actually the beginning of the war, not the end? What do we remember on Memorial Day? Veteran's Day was originally designed to honor those who served in which war?
2. Revisit your family tree. Who in your family served in the armed forces? Did anyone serve during wartime? Did anyone pay the ultimate price of their life? Encourage your children to talk to family veterans. Have them ask questions about the time in which they served. What do they want your children to know about this country?
3. Discuss what it means to be free. Did they know that there are places where children can't choose what they want to do when they grow up? Are they aware that some people can't live where they want to, or worship God as they choose?
4. Vote. No other lesson will have a greater impact than seeing democracy in action. We can teach this lesson best by taking full advantage of our rights and responsibilities. We need to register to vote, study the issues and then cast our ballots. Take your kids with you when you vote. Don't choose the presidential election, but rather a small local one and pick a slow time after school. Then your kids can see the set-up, talk to the election personnel while you cast your ballot.
5. Buy a flag and fly it. Teach a reverence for the flag and what it stands for. Learn together how to care for your flag, when to take it down, and what to do when it is time to replace it. Talk about the symbolism of the flag: the stars represent the 50 states and the stripes represent the first thirteen states. Originally the stars appeared in a circle to represent that no one state was superior to another. Remind your children that people fought and died for our right to fly that flag and that many veterans feel that clothing and other items with the Stars and Stripes are inappropriate.
6. Enjoy patriotic music together. Buy a tape or CD of John Phillips Sousa and make it part of your patriotic holiday celebrations. Learn the words to the Star Spangled Banner. Talk about Francis Scott Key and what events inspired him to write the song.
7. Attend parades commemorating patriotic holidays. Or why not have your own parade in your neighborhood? Encourage all the kids to join in. Make bike, big wheel, or wagon "floats" and take a trip or two around the block. Play pots and pans instruments and carry the flag high.
8. Sprinkle lessons of American history into your child's life. Watch specials on PBS, the History Channel or the Discovery Channel that talk about people and events that have formed this country and democracy. Read biographies of famous people throughout history. Since much of "history" focuses on men, talk about women's efforts as well.

"God Bless America"

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