Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – “Teach Your Children” Lyrics Meaning

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Written By Joanna Landrum

Joanna holds a BSc in English Literature and uses her expertise in literary analysis to uncover the deeper meaning of her favorite songs.

“Teach Your Children” is a lyrical conversation between generations. It’s about understanding, guiding, and learning from one another. The song emphasizes the importance of imparting wisdom and dreams to the younger generation while also recognizing the struggles of the past. It underscores the cyclical nature of life, highlighting how both elders and youngsters are responsible towards each other.


Let’s navigate through the generational dialogues and untangle the profound messages embedded in the classic “Teach Your Children” by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

“Teach Your Children” Lyrics Meaning

From its opening line, “You, who are on the road,” the song speaks directly to those journeying through life, urging them to have principles to guide their way. The mention of “a code you try to live by” emphasizes the importance of having values and principles in one’s life journey. This code helps one “become yourself,” suggesting that it aids in personal growth and understanding oneself better.

The chorus, “Teach your children well… Feed them on your dreams,” drives home the point of guiding the younger generation. The reference to “their father’s hell” possibly alludes to past struggles and hardships experienced by previous generations. There’s a clear message: learn from the past and dream of a better future, shaping it based on collective experiences.

However, the song doesn’t just address the younger generation. It also speaks to the youth, emphasizing the need to comprehend the fears and challenges faced by their elders. “And you, of tender years, Can’t know the fears your elders grew by.” This understanding is essential for a mutual bond, stressing the significance of empathy between the generations.

The plea, “Don’t you ever ask them why, If they told you, you would cry,” conveys the depth of hardships faced by the elders. It’s a gentle reminder that some experiences are so profound and painful that they might be beyond comprehension.

Overall, the song is a beautiful synthesis of inter-generational dialogue. It promotes understanding, love, and the responsibility each generation carries in shaping the next while emphasizing mutual respect.

The Story Behind “Teach Your Children”

Penned by Graham Nash, “Teach Your Children” has its roots in Nash’s personal experiences and reflections. The song, beautifully encapsulating themes of education and mutual respect between generations was largely inspired by a turbulent period during the late 1960s. As Nash observed the socio-political landscape of the era, he felt a pressing need for better communication and understanding between different age groups.

The message is clear: while the younger generation can offer fresh perspectives and dreams, the older generation provides wisdom borne out of experience. It’s a two-way street, where knowledge and understanding flow in both directions.

Graham Nash, at that time, was navigating through significant changes in his life – breaking away from his previous band, The Hollies, and forming a new bond with David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Neil Young. This transition period likely influenced Nash’s introspection, leading him to pen this timeless classic.

“Teach Your Children” emerges not just as a song but as an anthem of sorts, urging generations to learn from, understand, and guide one another. It’s a testament to Nash’s introspective songwriting, capturing the essence of an era while retaining a timeless quality, making it relevant across different periods.