Why You Should Teach Your Kids to Be Grateful for Their Country
Why You Should Teach Your Kids to Be Grateful for Their Country
May Patterson Writer and Teacher
Like an invisible thread, celebrating our country bound us together. Even as a child, it made me feel like an important part of something special. It gave me a sense of security, belonging, and gratitude. Every kid needs that.
“I’m sick of all the problems here in America,” wrote an angry student online last year. Then she listed all the things she didn’t like about it. And in a way, I get it. I have a list of gripes, too. But if you focus solely on what you don’t like about your country, then you’ll probably overlook the good things and discount the blessings. And I think that’s a shame.
Yes, our history is marked by injustice, crime, abuse, and racism. And yet, there isn’t a country on this planet that hasn’t struggled with the same problems. No, not one. I’ve titled this post “Why You Should Teach Your Kids to Be Grateful Their Country” because, sadly, no one else will. Possibly, your kids will not learn about the blessings of being an American at school. Or on the news. Or even among their friends.
As July 4th approaches, I want to balance out the bad things our kids hear by focusing on the good things we have to be grateful for in our nation.
Here’s why kids (and the rest of us) should be grateful for America:
1. It Is a Beautiful Place
From the raging waters of Niagara Falls to the endless mazes of the Everglades, from the white sand deserts to the giant Redwood forest, our country is filled with natural beauty. These abundant blessings of nature are our heritage. Teach your kids to be grateful for our country’s beauty. Point it out. Visit a national park. Thank God for His creation. Appreciating God’s handiwork will enable your kids to enjoy it more.
2. You Are Free to Speak Out
You can say just about anything you want to in America. You can sing, or write, or publish whatever you want. You can complain about Congress. You can criticize the mayor or write about the problems with the tax code. You can even mock the president openly. This isn’t the case in many other countries. Even though some misuse the freedom of speech, I’m grateful for it because it allows me to write and speak about my faith.
3. You Are Free to Practice Your Own Religion
Once I heard a Chinese refugee describe his imprisonment in China. Because he had led a secret Christian church, his home was confiscated, and his entire family was sent to prison for two years. I’ll never forget the look on his face or the tremor in his voice as he talked about how he treasured the freedom to worship. It’s something I hope never to take for granted.
4. You Have Free Access to Education
In South Sudan, 84% of the women are illiterate. In contrast, our country provides all of its children with free education. When I was young, I didn’t like school very much, so it was hard for me to see it as a blessing. Maybe your kids feel the same way. Remind them that school is a privilege that many—especially women—don’t have. Teach your children to be grateful for the learning opportunities our country provides.
5. You Are Free to Own Property
Owning a home is the cornerstone of the American Dream, but if you lived in Nigeria or Yemen, you might not have the opportunity to own your own home. Ever. And even if you were granted the right to own property, your ownership rights might not be protected from seizure. But here, your property rights are protected. Teach your kids to appreciate and care for your home, car, or whatever your family owns.
6. You Are Free to Travel
In some countries, citizens are required to have exit visas before they can travel. That means the government decides when and if you can leave. In 2019, I visited Slovenia, a former part of Communist Yugoslavia. Our tour guide told us that she was prohibited from visiting her grandmother in a neighboring country years ago. Sadly she met her grandmother only once, even though she lived less than 100 miles away. If you travel this summer, pause for a moment with your kids to thank God for this freedom.
7. You Have a High Standard of Living
According to Pew Research study, 56% of Americans are considered high income by the global standard. Another 32% are considered upper-middle-income. If you’ve traveled very much overseas, you know this to be true. In many places, you can’t drink the water, and the roads are almost impassable. Appliances such as air-conditioning, dishwashers, and refrigerators, are rare. Teach your kids to be grateful for everyday conveniences. If you don’t, they may never realize all the good things they have to enjoy.
8. There Are Many Opportunities
In most countries, opportunity is limited, and your place in society is assigned; in America, you determine them for yourself. A beggar’s son can become president. An immigrant can own his or her own business. Tony Blair once said: “A simple way to take measure of a country is to look at how many want in . . . and how many want to get out.” Americans are blessed not only with the freedom to dream, but with the freedom to pursue their dreams.
9. God Placed You Here
The Bible tells us that “God began by making one person, and from him came all the different people who live everywhere in the world. God decided exactly when and where they must live” (Acts 17:26 NCV). In other words, God chose for you to live right here, right now. In His great wisdom, He gave you a country to belong to. Teach your kids to trust God’s plan, even when it doesn’t seem good. I love this quote: “God gave us the whole earth to love, but since our hearts are small, He ordained for each one a special place—a home—to love above all.” (Adapted from the writings of Runyard Kipling)
I grew up celebrating the 4th of July with my family and friends at the lake. Every year, we paused to thank God for our country before tearing into platters of tangy barbeque chicken with white sauce, mounds of coleslaw and creamy potato salad, and of course, American flag cake. After dark, we shot firecrackers and ran around the yard waving our sparklers, rejoicing in our freedom. Like an invisible thread, celebrating our country bound us together. Even as a child, it made me feel like an important part of something special. It gave me a sense of security, belonging, and gratitude.
Every kid needs that. I hope you agree.
Instill a Sense of Patriotic Gratitude in Your Kids by Teaching Them:
• Why you’re grateful for America (you can use the reasons above).
• About America’s symbols: the flag, the Liberty Bell, Statue of Liberty, etc.
• Why we celebrate Independence Day.
• To honor our soldiers.
• To be responsible citizens by voting, volunteering, and obeying the law. (Rom. 13:1-7)
• What to do during the national anthem.
• That there’s a better country. While America is a good place, you can belong to something much greater: the holy nation of God (1 Pet. 2:9).
Happy 4th of July!
This piece is adapted from May Patterson's website: MayPatterson.com
Photo credit: ©Unsplash/Aaron Burden
May Patterson has been writing and teaching Bible study classes for years. Recently she released her first book, “Seeking a Familiar Face.” Now, she has just released its companion Bible study workbook. May trained in small group dynamics for over ten years with Bible Study Fellowship, serving as a leader for four years. She has written for various magazines including Focus on the Family, Upper Room Magazine and iBelieve, and is a sought-after public speaker. May is married to her dear friend, Mike, and they have three grown children. She loves to tell stories, laugh, and talk about the adventure of seeking God. Read more from May by visiting: http://www.maypatterson.com.