I often hold the opinion that we make things more complicated than necessary but that we overlook how deliberate and purposeful we must be to accomplish our desired goals with our children. Teaching children to be good citizens truly begins by showing them how to function in the family, in their small group of friends, in preschool, and eventually in the community in which they live.
However, if we are going to teach our children about our great country, we must be deliberate about the process. We cannot assume that our children will just eventually learn everything that they need to know about becoming a great citizen from school. I believe that it begins early and that our teaching must be purposeful. What would you like for your children to know about our country? Here are some ideas that you might want to consider:
- Make a list of sites that you deem important and consistent with your family’s values and have a 10- to 15-year plan of the cities, monuments, national forests, and other places where you want to take your children. Involve them in the discussion and introduce these sites by reading about them long before you actually invest in traveling to them.
- You can go so many places with books; travel isn’t always necessary. Just because you cannot travel does not mean you cannot nurture a deep appreciation of great places in your children.
- Seize each teachable moment and define it for your child:
- If you participate with your child in cleaning up a city park or another community area, let your child know that this is “being a good citizen.”
- Take the opportunity to go to the airport and wave a flag to welcome home soldiers who have served our country well. Show them real heroes.
- Teach your child the art of conflict resolution in the home. This is crucial to becoming a great citizen.
- Even very young children can learn the Pledge of Allegiance. Be purposeful in teaching them patriotic songs and rhymes. Do not assume that they will just one day “catch” the ideas on their own.
- When you see someone who is not obeying a law, take an appropriate moment to explain why it is important that we have laws in our country, city, community, and/or family. Just remember that the younger the child, the simpler the explanation.
- A birthday party for our country is a concept that any child can understand…it might be a tradition worth implementing with your children.
Happy Birthday America!
Written by: Donna McClintock, COO Children’s Choice Learning Centers www.ChildrensChoice.com