Meaning of “Teach Your Children” by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

Written By Michael Miller

Michael is a music teacher and professional cellist. He loves uncovering the deeper meaning of popular songs.

“Teach Your Children” by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young is a timeless song with a powerful message. It’s about passing down wisdom and values from one generation to the next. The songwriter wants to convey the idea that parents should teach their children well, nurture their dreams, and help them navigate life’s challenges. The song addresses the cyclical nature of life, where the mistakes of one generation can be corrected by the next. It’s not just a song; it’s a heartfelt plea for understanding and empathy between parents and children.

Now, if you’re curious about the layers of meaning in this classic tune, let’s delve deeper into the lyrics.

“Teach Your Children” Lyrics Meaning

The song begins by addressing those “on the road” in life, suggesting that having a personal code and becoming true to oneself is vital. The past is viewed as a “goodbye,” emphasizing the importance of living in the present.

“Teach your children well” urges parents to impart their knowledge, ensuring that the next generation doesn’t repeat their mistakes. The mention of “father’s hell” fading away suggests the healing power of teaching and learning.

“Feed them on your dreams” emphasizes nurturing the aspirations of young minds, and the idea that the dreams they pursue will shape their identities. The line “Don’t you ever ask them why” speaks to the idea that some truths may be too painful to share, but parents should still be trusted.

The section about “of tender years” highlights the innocence of youth and the need for older generations to guide them toward the truth.

In essence, the lyrics stress the importance of understanding, love, and the passing of wisdom from parents to children.

Why Was “Teach Your Children” Written?

“Teach Your Children” was written during a turbulent period in the 1960s when generational divides were stark. The songwriter, Graham Nash, was inspired by a photograph of a child holding a toy gun, juxtaposed with a headline about the Vietnam War. This image prompted him to reflect on the need for better communication between generations.

Nash was in a state of mind where he felt the urgency of bridging the gap between young people and their parents during a time of social and political upheaval. He believed that open communication and understanding were crucial to building a better future.

In conclusion, “Teach Your Children” is a heartfelt plea for intergenerational understanding and communication. It encourages parents to pass on their wisdom and dreams to their children, fostering a brighter tomorrow. It’s a timeless message that resonates as strongly today as it did when it was written.