Meaning of ”Teach Your Children” Meaning 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,” penned by Graham Nash and performed by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, is a timeless piece that delves deep into the essence of parent-child relationships. It serves as a powerful reminder of the influence parents have on their children, and vice versa. The song emphasizes the importance of mutual understanding and learning, encouraging parents to imbue their children with wisdom, while also urging the younger generation to empathize with the fears and experiences of their elders. The overarching theme is the intergenerational transmission of values, wisdom, and dreams, promoting a cycle of love and knowledge.

Read on for a deep dive into its rich tapestry of meaning!

“Teach Your Children” Lyrics Meaning

“Teach Your Children” initiates a dialogue between generations, creating a sense of continuity and connection. The song starts with the lines “You, who are on the road, must have a code you try to live by,” a direct appeal to individuals on the journey of life, emphasizing the importance of living by a moral compass.

The song unravels the symbiosis between the past and the present, emphasizing that the past is “just a goodbye.” This denotes the inevitability of moving forward, leaving behind past sufferings, symbolized by “their father’s hell did slowly go by,” and embracing the present and future through the dreams and hopes we instill in our children.

“Feed them on your dreams” implies the essentiality of nurturing children with one’s aspirations and ideals, steering them towards a path of self-discovery and realization. It’s a reflection of the hopes every generation has for the ones that follow, an enduring wish for them to lead fulfilled lives.

But the song also explores the significance of reciprocity. “Teach your parents well,” is a potent reminder of the cyclical nature of learning and teaching. It stresses the vital role the younger generation plays in enlightening their elders, breaking the stereotype that wisdom flows only one way.

The lines “Don’t you ever ask them why, if they told you, you would cry,” signify the unspoken pains and hardships of each generation, suggesting that some truths are too painful to be fully comprehended by the other. It’s a silent acknowledgment of the sacrifices made and the silent battles fought by each generation for the sake of the other.

The recurring phrase “And know they love you” serves as the song’s heart, underlying every sentiment expressed. It’s a universal reassurance of the boundless love that exists within the family unit, even amidst unspoken pains and silent understandings.

Why Was “Teach Your Children” Written?

The context of the song’s creation provides an additional layer to its interpretation. Graham Nash, the song’s writer, was immersed in an era marked by upheaval and transformation—the late 1960s and early 1970s were a time of anti-war protests and a burgeoning counter-culture movement. Nash was navigating the complexities of being both a member of the younger generation seeking change and an individual with a growing awareness of the intergenerational dialogues and understandings that needed to occur.

“Teach Your Children” is a reflection of Nash’s internal and external observations and a response to the societal shifts occurring around him. It encapsulates his aspirations for mutual respect, understanding, and learning between generations. This song is not just an intimate conversation between parents and children; it’s also a metaphorical conversation between the old and the new, the past and the future, conveying a universal message of love, respect, and shared wisdom that transcends time and societal changes.