October 1st can most times be a sobering day, because you are tempted to think that Nigeria as nation has not achieved much. It seems we take two steps forward and five backwards. But I like to always be optimistic and look at the glass as half full rather than half empty. While there are things I am ashamed of, there are a lot of things to appreciate about being Nigerian and living here. Today I ask myself, how do I begin to instil that same level of patriotism in my children who will be the leaders and change agents of tomorrow?
“Patriotism means more than holding your hand over your heart during the national anthem. It means more than walking in to a voting booth every four years and pulling a lever. Patriotism is a love and a duty, a love of country expressed in good citizenship” – John McCain
Patriotism is the love and respect towards one’s motherland. Instilling this in children will make them responsible citizens of tomorrow.
A lot of Nigerians are ready to drop their passports for an American, Canadian, Australian or European one . They want to live in America today because they love the “greener more sane” pasture. The truth is that, none of these countries achieved greatness without the great patriotism shown by their citizens. As parents we have a major role to play to ensure that our kids grow to be responsible citizens.
So what do we need to teach them about our country, its customs and its history? What should kids growing up in Nigeria know about this nation?. Here are some tips on how to inspire patriotism in children.
- Teach them about our rich heritage.
Nigeria is blessed with such a rich heritage. With over 250 ethnic group, a wide and rich variety is something we have in excess. When we dress up in our traditional outfits, it reminds me of a proud peacock showing off. So tell them about the land, natural resources we are blessed with, the people, their culture, our festivals, our foods and our history.
- Tell them about Independence Day
Go down memory lane and tell them about pre-colonial era to present day. Let them know about the bravery of freedom Fighters who fought the status quo to win us our independence which is why we celebrate. Challenge them on the need to be courageous like the heroes who have gone before them and also to honour soldiers who have served or died for the country.
- Explain key symbols of our nationalism
Every Nigerian child (both home and abroad) should know the importance of national symbols such as the national anthem, the pledge, flag, coat of arms, war memorials, great people, landmarks/monuments like TBS (Tafawa Balewa Square), etc. Explain what the flag stands for and what our anthem and pledge means to us. If you can, take them to the museum and to visit historic places and monuments.
- Teach them what it means to be a good citizen
Teach them about government, laws, our rights and how it all works. Explain what democracy is about and the journey to get to where we are currently. Explain the election process and how our involvement is crucial to democracy and our success as a nation. Talk politics without forcing your views on them. And lastly, let them know how in little ways they can show patriotism – by obeying the laws, paying taxes, not littering, taking good care of public property and the environment, etc.
- Teach them about service to their country
“Remember, don’t ask what your country can do for you, rather ask what you can do for your country.” – J.F Kennedy
Good citizens do not serve their own interest but rather understand that their actions affect the world around them. When you do the wrong thing, its because you are putting your interest and desires above others. Everyone can serve their country by doing his/her duty to the best of his ability. So whatever your occupation in life, you can serve your country by doing your duty well not solely for financial gain or fame.
- Be a role model
To teach patriotism to your child, you must be patriotic as well. Since patriotism is to do with emotions and not knowledge, it should be taught at the personal level. Your children will be patriotic if you as a parent are, you are their greatest role model. So go out of your way to model the behaviour of a responsible citizen. Do not talk ill of the country in front of children; not even as a joke. Being an active and involved citizen and take them with you when going for voting, volunteering in your community, participating in local residents meetings
Am I saying Nigeria is perfect and a great country. No, I am not. But in the words of Idowu Koyenikan
“Your pride for your country should not come after your country becomes great. Your country becomes great because of your pride in it.”
A lot of times, it’s easy to get negative, but try to keep it positive–remember, you’re trying to encourage patriotism and pride. With pride in our great nation, we will become great.
9ijakids has a number of games that can help children learn more about Nigeria and have a sense of pride. Play our 9ija Citizenship Test, 9ija Heroes or Who Wants to Be a Brainiac for fun learning and game to plant the seeds of patriotism.