Prescribing Patriotism for More Virtuous Kids

Prescribing Patriotism for More Virtuous Kids October 7, 2016

The First in a Series on Raising Patriotic Kids

What if there were a magic potion that would make your children more compassionate, grateful, and empowered? One that could help them be less self-centered, and give them a sense of belonging. You’d buy it in bulk, right?

Well, how about trying a regular dose of patriotism? One parenting expert says a sense of patriotism in your kids can do all that and more. While it is perhaps more obvious how patriotism can benefit society – more community service and civic involvement, for example – child development expert Dr. Deborah Gilboa says it also has many positive benefits for the children themselves.


One of these is a sense of connection. Having pride for your country and identifying with its people grounds kids in who they are, and makes them feel part of something bigger than themselves.

“When they realize they can be part of a country, it’s easy for them to see how they can be part of smaller things — a community, a team, a family,” says Dr. Gilboa, a family physician, mom of four boys, author, and speaker.

And as part of a something, kids realize they have a role in that group. They learn to get involved, and want to give back. They become more compassionate and selfless. Seeing how Americans respond to a crisis, for example, teaches those who feel a sense of national pride to follow suit.

“Whether it’s donating aid to flood victims in Louisiana or making origami cranes to send to earthquake survivors in Japan,” Dr. Gilboa explains, “Kids believe that this is what Americans do.”

As a first-grader teacher, Diana Rambaldi makes a point to talk about patriotism in her New Jersey classroom. It helps her students understand gratitude, she says. Together they discuss the sacrifices service men and women – and their families – make.

“It gives them an understanding of what people in the military give up for us and for our freedom.”

Rambaldi helped inspire The Boot Campaign’s Patriot League, a kid-centered, activity-based program that promotes patriotism and community service. She has seen that teaching kids to have pride in their country – even at a very young age – makes a difference. Within just a couple of weeks, for example, they show greater respect for the flag in the morning.

“It really does stick,” she says.


So often kids can feel powerless in the world. But knowing and respecting our country’s history and democratic process makes children realize they can make change happen, according to Dr. Gilboa. When they see people believing in causes, standing up for and working toward them, it builds confidence and competence, and allows them to grow up with a belief in their own power.

“When we teach that to kids, about going out and rallying for what they believe, we’re telling them ‘You’re an effective person who can get things done. Your voice has value.’”

And what a powerful and important feeling that is to be able to identify and work toward solving problems! The generation growing up right now is incredibly passionate about social justice and technology, Dr. Gilboa says, and has the skills to address national and global issues. But if they lack patriotism, will they even bother?

“They really do see injustices, so it’s all about grabbing that passion and energy and drive they have and getting them involved. That can change them entirely into kind of adult you’d like to hang out with.”

The kind of adult that possesses the qualities that Teddy Roosevelt equated with patriotism:

“Americanism means the virtues of courage, honor, justice, truth, sincerity, and hardihood — the virtues that made America.” 

What parents wouldn’t want that for their children?

Coming soon…simple ways you can help instill patriotism in your children, and more on The Boot Campaign’s Patriot League. 

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