We received dozens of questions in our recent “Ask an Amish Person” post, covering everything from gardening to child discipline to challenges and rewards of being Amish.
Indiana Amishman Merlyn Yoder has responded to a good chunk–about 17 of them–below. We’re calling this “part 1” as I’m hoping we’ll receive further responses, if Merlyn’s schedule allows.
But either way, a big thanks to Merlyn for his efforts here.
Your Questions & Merlyn’s Responses
Linda: I know you don’t use cell phones in your homes…but as a mom and a nurse wouldn’t it be a good idea to have a cell phone in case of a medical emergency even if you don’t use it for anything else?
Merlyn: In an emergency, seconds count. Most homes in northern Indiana have a phone within 2 or 3 minutes down the road.
Jeff Smejkal: My wife and I go up to Lancaster PA. a lot. While we drive the back roads we notice a lot of vegetable gardens. In these gardens there are a lot of different flowers planted through out the garden. I was wondering if these flowers were there for beauty or are they there to deter insects. If the later what flowers do they use to repel insects?
Merlyn: Probably for beauty. Although some flowers can be planted to attract beneficial insects who prey on the bad guys.
Slightly-handled-Order-man: There has been a lot of discussion on ‘Amish America’ about the challenges of being Amish faced by English people trying to join the faith and ‘born and raised’ Amish youth who ultimately choose to leave, but, I was curious, what in your opinion is the most challenging and yet rewarding part of being Amish?
Merlyn: In my opinion, raising children in today’s world and then seeing them decide to continue in the faith.
Terry from Wisc: This is not a new question, rather one I’ve had most of the 50+ years I have known Amish. When you see little kids,at least in the public eye,they are well behaved. My latest observation was recently at the Amish consignment auction in Marion, WI. In the furniture/quilt tent were three little boys about 5 yrs of age just watching and being good. Their dads were most likely helping with the furniture, so not that far away. No mischief…just watching for probably a good hour. I’ve come to the conclusion that Amish kids are ok being bored, which helps being in church for three hours.
Another observation was a dad who had 5 little girls with him alone. Mom must have been taking her turn in the food line. The three oldest ones just sat, one hanging over dad’s knee, and the youngest around a year old, sat in her dad’s lap. No toys, no books, no entertainment other than watching the auction. And then us fellow observers ask ourselves…why are they being so good?
Merlyn: Are you sure those weren’t life-size dolls?
Derek J: We hear about how the young leaving the faith and move on due to rejection of all the church rules and such. But do older Amish leave too? Do older folks or maybe even entire families in later stages of life (40 on) leave?
Merlyn: Yes this does happen.
Natalie: My husband and I were in WI and when we were driving back to our campsite he was asking how to tell if a lady was married. Is there a way to know as I know the Amish don’t [wear] jewelry? I know the men usually grow their beards out.
Merlyn: Not a one-size-fits-all answer. There are many subtle variations in dress from community to community. The surest way to find out is by asking!
Abe: Growing up old order, I virtually never heard anyone talk about social issues not directly affecting the church. Barely a mention of abortion, gay rights, race relations or social justice. With many Amish becoming more integrated with the outside world, is there more debate or discussion about current political or societal changes? Are they addressed by the church?
Merlyn: Yes, especially abortion and gay rights.
Leilah Dimar: How does the family teach children how to behave? What do they do to teach little ones to sit still in public? Any approaches that have worked for you?
Merlyn: Oh dear, I am open for advice on this subject.
Carol: In articles in “Family Life” I’ve read the term “breaking the child’s spirit” several times. To the “outsider” this would seem to equate with “breaking a horse to ride.” Sounds awful when applied to children and it makes one wonder if “breaking the spirit” is the early training to discourage later “jumping the fence.” So Merlyn, what does “breaking the spirit” of a child consist of? Harsh physical punishment, the “death stare” (as my kids used to accuse me of), just what?
Merlyn: Probably being firm, fair, persistent yet loving with whatever discipline being used.
Donna J: I would love to know what all vegetables the women can from their gardens. Also, how much is the average? Do they keep a garden year round? Do they ever buy from each other to can if their garden does not produce enough to feed their family?
Merlyn: Almost any veggie can be preserved. Sharing excess is common. Some women use more intense practices. Almost all can beets and pickles for the church menu.
Debbie H: I have the same question as several others. How do the Amish discipline their children. I guess we are curious because so many English children have no respect or discipline and are very loud. I know from watching the TV show the Nanny that very undisciplined children act out for attention because they do not get attention otherwise. Could this be why Amish children are calm and obedient? They do get attention so no need to act out.
Merlyn: Small children need to understand what no means. You are probably right about the attention part. We all have room for improvement in that area.
Jeanne R: I was reading this article that the Amish has a way to stop hearing loss or prevent hearing loss, is this the truth?
Merlyn: Haven’t heard of that method. Amish ears are just like non-Amish ears.
Barb Zimmerman: I have noted the huge change from the old standard plain brown (Morgan?) horse to many different varieties of horses being used to pull the buggies, wagons, etc. What brought about the change? Did the horse choice become more lenient? Or was there a practical reason for the change, such as a shortage of the plain brown horses?
Merlyn: There are plenty of horses. Some prefer to drive an exciting horse instead of the old plug. Breeders select for these traits.
Pat Wala: I have read about your problems in finding farms in America due to cost and space. Have you ever thought about immigrating to places where there is plenty of space….like New Zealand for example? I know that community is important to you but would you consider opening a church elsewhere?
Merlyn: If we faced the persecution our great grandparents did, I think New Zealand would be a good option. We might upset the sheep-to-human ratio though.
Harriet: For many years, I have wanted to have a conversation on a deeper level with an Amish person. I want to know more about Gelassenheit. I understand what it means, yielding to a higher authority, submission and humility. But how does one go about this? I understand from a Christian perspective, yielding to God’s will, but how does the average American, who is taught to be independent and self-assured, do this in their everyday life?
Merlyn: Deep question. I think it would take a willing and conscious effort continually. Matthew 22-37, 38, 39 sums up my opinion. May God help you!
Alice Mary: Do the Amish use window screens & screen doors? I read about some not using screening. Doesn’t that cause a lot of bug problems in the house? I know we’re being warned in my area about mosquitoes carrying West Nile Virus, among other deadly diseases. How do the Amish keep them out of the house (especially in hot weather when windows are wide open)?
Merlyn: I haven’t heard about the absence of screens. Our area has several window repair shops.
Laura: What is your favorite memory as a child?
Merlyn: There are many good memories. Climbing trees on a clear summer day rank high for me.
You might also like:
Thank you, Merlyn
Thank you, Merlyn for your answer to my question. Isn’t loving your neighbor as we love ourselves, just the hardest thing we are asked to do?
Rebecca and Mark, I am ready to hear what you have to say on this matter. Any practical pointers would be appreciated.
Harriet, from my point of view it helps if you are taught from babyhood up to give up and give in. Still it’s not always easy to think of others first and about the greater good for everyone. We are each individual, so for some it’s probably easier (or at least seems that way) than others. But being part of a group where we have many great examples helps, too. You see the calm peace and love on the older people’s face and you want that, you know it has come about through heartaches, struggles, and yielding self-will. Not saying it’s easy, it’s something I’ve always struggled with.
Thank you Rebecca
Thanks, Rebecca for your insight. It is funny the way God works. As I was awaiting your reply, my morning devotion was on this topic!
This is a something I have wondered about for years. I was raised as an only child, so this is something that really never came up at our house. Of course, we always gave to others and took care of other people, but the idea of humbling myself before others and submitting to anyone but God was not taught to me.
How do the Amish view someone who is English, or no longer Amish, dressing as though they are Amish? I can imagine there are times when it takes awhile to accustom to dressing English. But what about years later? My concern is the children having an “identity issue” where they aren’t accepted by English kids because they dress Amish. But they aren’t accepted by Amish kids because they aren’t Amish. This seems to be a trend with some of the shunned Lancaster ex-Amish. How is it handled with the children? Not to mention it confuses us English thinking someone is Amish, but they are really not anymore.
Around here you will very seldom see that. Of course there are plain Mennonite and Charity churches whose dress is very similar, but we can tell the difference. We would feel it’s a mockery for non-Amish people to dress Amish unless it’s someone in a transition toward plainer dress and maybe a plainer lifestyle and they choose Amish dress, because it’s more readily available and they feel it’s more modest.
Can a non Amish (English) couple ask an Amish man to act as a minister of the Lord our God in heaven and unite the non Amish (English) couple in marriage because the non Amish (English) couple asked the Amish man too marry them because the non Amish (English) couple wanted to get married?
If the answer is yes then that is good news for the non Amish (English) couple that got married because it would be a joyous day for the Amish too.
Here below are good names for your future sons:
The name Isaac means: He will laugh
The name Jacob means: Sub-planter/Israel
The name David means: Beloved
The name Michael means: Who is like God
The name Daniel means: God is my judge
Here below is a good name for your future daughter:
The name Sarah means: Princess
(Q/A from above…)
Q: Do the Amish have a way to stop hearing loss?
A: Haven’t heard of it.
Priceless! The best play on words is often the unintended one. 😉
Thanks to all involved for putting this article together.
I didn’t catch that til you pointed it out.
Ask an amish person
Hey Eriick, I have a question that I think would be a very good topic/discussion for a future debate. “Why don’t the the Amish fly/display the American flag?” If your not willing to open this question up to public debate, I would appreciate it if you could give me insight into this issue. Thank you for your time.
Hi Fran, I welcome anyone sharing thoughts on this, and I’ll also direct you to a post where we addressed a similar topic in some depth, on Amish and the pledge of allegiance: https://amishamerica.com/pledging-allegiance-flag-or-god/
You might also read about Two Kingdoms doctrine, which I think would give insight into your question. On that note, one of our commenters concisely summed up her beliefs regarding Two Kingdoms here: https://amishamerica.com/pledging-allegiance-flag-or-god/#comment-52850
Interesting answers (though a few aren’t REALLY answers 🙂 ! I look forward to part 2…and any further insight into how Amish kids behave so well (perhaps a few Amish Moms could be asked?) Someone should write a book (hint, hint!).
Thanks to Merlyn & Erik!
Yeah Alice Mary, I felt that some of the responses were more non-answers as well. (And I don’t mean that in a critical way.)
But I guess what puzzled me (in a way) was all the questions asked about the Amish raising such obedient kids (as a general rule). It’s not like I’ve watched any Amish raising their kids day-after-day, of course. But when we’re talking about people of the Word, who more-or-less day-by-day exemplify right living to their children, and who doubtlessly follow the basic rules/guidelines of that Word (esp. Proverbs) in raising their kids — I guess I fail to understand the astonishment when their kids turn out like the Word says they should.
I was always astonished how the Amish children were so well behaved, quiet, and just still. Years ago I befriended a few Amish ladies and one gave me a book to look through It was something like Train up a Child or something like that. I
believe it was written by the Pearls. I’m not speaking for all Amish, just the ones I’ve personally known. I’d also like to add that Amish children are just like English! After awhile when they get to know you and are comfortable, they are just as rambunctious as English children. They are taught (just my experience as I’ve seen) to be weary of strangers outside the Amish. So as you become a familiar face in their home, they’ll be much more outgoing.
Beckysue, I agree with you Amish children can be just as rambunctious as others. But from my point of view I would say it’s not so much because we’re taught to be wary of non-Amish, but we’re taught a quiet, respectful reserve which I often find missing in dealings with non-Amish children. And, yes, a child needs to be taught that no means no.
Rebecca… Yes! Great description! I do have to respectfully disagree about the weariness of the “outside” world though. Amish children (in this community) are taught from a very early age that we (outside world) is a very scary place to be and mingling with the world is not encouraged. Again I’ve only been privy to a very small community and we have almost no tourists here. Maybe that could be a differance? I read in a comment that you are able to use a computer at work, that is unheard of in this area. There is only a few things that are an option for the single girls. Teaching school, selling things from the home or working for a family that has a new addition. Having a job at the market in town or the Wal-Mart would not fly. It could because they are so secluded? Your thoughts?? Thanks so much!
Beckysue, Sounds like we’re talking about 2 distinctly different groups of Amish. Although I’m also Old-order, we live in a high tourist area. Our girls work in any local shops, stores, bakeries, produce farms and markets, restaurants, and teaching school. We also do cleaning and lawncare for non-Amish.
Amish children dicipline
I have old order friends in Holmes county Ohio. Their children are taught from babyhood to sit still, no talking back, etc. I watched the father gently teach his 9 month old son how to sit on his lap during dinner, fold his hands (called patties down) during prayer and be quiet and respectful the whole meal. If one of the children acted out the child would be called on in Dutch to “ stop, be quiet.” Sternly and expected to obey. This rarely happened. Their was lively conversation no interrupting and they ate all their food, no complaints what was served and the two year old up to 13 cleared the table did the dishes and did not have to be told. They joyfully did their chores and look you straight in the eye when speaking. No they are not perfect but they are some of the most well behaved children I have scene and they are very happy content kids
Well said, Don. Of course we’re all human, so not everything turns out as parents hope.
“Of course we’re all human, so not everything turns out as parents hope.”
So very true!
Someone had mentioned on here earlier about a book on Amish child raising values, but I can’t remember the title. Anyone else ?
More Than Happy
Rebecca, are you referring to More Than Happy: The Wisdom of Amish Parenting (by Serena Miller and Paul Stutzman)?
Amish Values book
Rebecca, or maybe you meant the book, Amish Values for Your Family: What We Can Learn from the Simple Life, by Suzanne Woods Fisher.
Yes, Thank-you ! Either one might be good reading and have good tips for parents. Not being a parent I can’t help anyone on that subject. I only know that although we sometimes felt our parents were too strict, we knew they loved us, but we were expected to obey.
I liked Merlyn’s answer to Pat Wala’s question.
“If we faced the persecution our great grandparents did, I think New Zealand would be a good option. We might upset the sheep-to-human ratio though.”
I enjoy his wit 🙂
Hoping for an update!
Would like an update on the Amish couple mentioned on here quite a while ago. His mother posted about him, I believe. He is an Amish convert who married an Amish girl and, at the time, they had 2 children. (Sorry I don’t have their names because I am too lazy to go back and try to find them.) His mother posted that they were having a hard time financially and, if I remember correctly, his health wasn’t all that good?
I have been remembering them in my prayers and would like to know if things have gotten better for them. Thank you!
That was an interesting series of posts and replies. I hope all is well with that family too. Its been a while hasn’t it..
Hi Melissa, and thanks for asking about our son and his family. I’m sorry to all of you who’ve followed his story, sorry I’ve not checked in for awhile. The entire year has been extra hard for me with some minor health problems of my own (stress fractures in left foot, then torn meniscus in right knee, surgery was 5 weeks ago). Needless to say I’ve not been getting around too well myself!
We were blessed to have Ed and his family visit a few weeks ago. At that time his health was still borderline, though better than a year or so ago. While here he met with a dear doctor friend of ours who has taken his case on. They met twice to talk over what could possibly be wrong. The doctor has done lots of research and thinks it’s unlikely Ed is gluten intolerant (as Ed is convinced). He suggested some supplements (brought them with him and wouldn’t let Ed pay!), and pretty soon our sweet family returned home to MN. I got a letter from Ruth a few days ago saying he was better for the first week, then had 3-4 bad days, then better again. So we don’t really know how he’s doing, but overall, I’d say he’s better than he was a year ago, (then he weighed 108 lbs, now he’s up to 120). If you are given to prayer for him, please keep it up! The doctor just emailed me that he thinks Ed should be tested for gluten, which means he must go back on gluten for a couple of weeks (?) before being tested. While this seems a critical step, I know Ed will resist it as he’s been off gluten now for 2 years, and has heard that even a small grain of gluten can stir things up again. Much prayer is needed for this. I hope to write Erik some tidbits about how our week together went. It was a challenging time, but one we treasured. So watch for that to come and thanks again for praying!
Thank you, Anne!
So sorry to hear about your injuries! I hope Ed finds answers to his illness. I’m glad that he has been doing some better. Of course, I will keep your family in my prayers. Look forward to your update!
I have two questions .
Why are the children pulled out of school after the 8th grade?
Also is there B & B’s that are run by Amish in Wisconsin?
Why do Amish only go to school until 8th grade?
Carl, read more at:
Hi merlyn! Are you aware of all this terrorists acts in the world and what do you thini about it?
Raising disciplined children
The numerous questions about child discipline behavior is kind of a no brainer with me. As Don Burke said, if you raise your children as God taught they will be Godly children. My step-daughter gives her children no attention, her no means yes if you pitch a fit and she argues with them. The each have their own TV and computer where the eat dinner alone. Perhaps we should be asking, “What do we need to stop doing while raising our children?” I was raised to respect everyone, no meant no, you do not argue with your elders and to practice what the Bible taught. I raised my children the same which paid off with respectful disciplined grand children.
This made me think about a guest post that Mr. Erik Wesner wrote, “Everything You Want to Know About: Amish Families.”
“Amish emphasize certain values that lead to these family characteristics–both Biblical beliefs (promoting large families, an emphasis on selflessness, brotherly love, and other Christian values, forbidding divorce) and cultural (limited technology, which keeps focus on the family), and emphasizing traditional group activities like games, singing, and so on, rather than individualistic pursuits).”
good Amish builder in lower Michigan
Is anyone familiar with a good Amish builder in the lower Michigan area that could build a child’s playhouse? Thank you for more information if you do.
You posted in a general section that deals with a specific theme. (Ask An Amish Person)I would suggest posting your message in the Michigan section of this site… listed below.
Good luck…. Tom in Lincoln
Child's playhouse Michigan
Jen, if the playhouse is shed-size or similar to a mini-barn, you may want to consider:
Amish girl – Rebecca Are you on the amish TV show?
I am a Real Amish girl, not some fake on a Reality show. Thank-you !
Sorry to ask that question. How do you use the computer ect stuff if amish? or are you English.
Thank You again for answering.
Carl, Thanks for asking. I use a computer at work. You would probably be surprised how many Amish do use computers, either at work or a friend’s or public library. We just don’t Have computers, but we still can use them.
And the …or are you English ? ( I just answered that in my last comment.)
Keep in mind that there are many kinds of Amish and what you see on so-called REALITY shows are not REALITY. Don’t believe half of what you see on those. The Rebecca on the show may have grown up Amish, but left many years ago. Long before the show started she was living a wild life. When that show started he was NOT an innocent Amish teen going into a big city for the first time.
Rebecca I just want to give a big thank you for answering some of the fresh questions and elaborating on some of those that Merlyn answered. You’ve been a great resource for us.
Meant to say she not he, but really this would be true for most of those on the shows.
So do the amish have B & B’s? I would love to stay at one. Rebecca can you tell me more about yourself and your family? You can send me email if you would like. can you see me email address?
If not let me know and I will send it to you!
Yes, some of the Amish do run B&B’s. We stayed at one in Mt. Hope (Holmes Co.) OH a couple of times. It’s called Farmstead Lodging, run by Willis and Kathy Miller. (Wonderful folks.) It’s not the traditional kind of “breakfast”, but she usually has something for her guests to eat. We love the place, and hope to go back ‘fore long.
Thank you for sharing. I appreciate the simplicity of the stripped down Amish life. Culture and community that grew from Amish faith shows a God, Spouse, Children, Community, & Commerce that works. Gelassenheit puts American identity on its head. Thank you for the Q&A.
Carl, Your E-mail does not show up on here, so if you post it on a comment I’ll try to get back to you.
Here you go...
Here you go Rebecca.
my email is MR.TRAINDRIVER@Q.COM
I await your reply when you have time….
Question for Rebecca
I don’t mean to go so far off topic here, but I have been asking around and looking online, etc and can’t find the answer. I am wondering if you can tell me, Rebecca, (or anyone who is Amish) what kind of Amish live in the Becker county settlement in Minnesota?
I really like my Amish neighbors, but they are pretty shy/reserved around us, and I am the same around them too. So we really only exchange very small talk, but I want more. I am really trying to get to know them better, I would love to have some good Amish friends and just in general, want to be friends with our only neighbors! We do exchange baked goods or other goodies from time to time with them.
Sorry Jess, Couldn’t tell you. My advice is keep being open, friendly, and respectful. With time your efforts will hopefully pay off and you can enjoy a meaningful relationship.
Making Friends with the Amish
I know you directed the question to Rebecca but would like to add my 2 cents. You are miles ahead of many that would like to meet some Amish folks because of the chats and food exchanges? Why not take it to the next level and ask them over for a barbecue? Depending on the size of their family and yours you might find some game you both like playing, like UNO or Skip-Bo. “IF” you and yours are a smokers or like to have a beer or wine in your hands when socializing this will make them uncomfortable. Do they have children? Do you? If so, and they are around the same age maybe they could teach each other a game.
“Maybe” they have to work work work just to be able to afford things and when they finally get a chance to relax they don’t feel like going over to peoples places. They probably already have so many church things to do as is. Let them know that you have really appreciated the chats you have had and food exchanges, and that you would like to get to know them better, after all, you are neighbors.
Are there Amish stores around there? If so visit them so you have some common things to chat about. If they are not Swartzentruber, who I understand don’t ride in cars except in emergencies, offer to give them a ride to the store. It would save them money and give you another contact with them. Does their community do fund raising events open to English people? Attend, again maybe offer them a ride to the event. Do you or them husk corn or process some chickens from time to time? Maybe offer to help, and maybe they will do the same.
So many factors go into making good-great friendships, you sound like you are ahead of many English folks. Please let us know how it goes for you. Remember to smile a lot, that shows you are open and not scary. When they stop by turn off the TV and radio and make them the center of what is going on. (they would not tell you to do this but it keeps your place more peaceful.
Tom in Lincoln
Further afield than NZ?
Regarding the comment about the possibility of an Amish settlement in New Zealand, I’ve sometimes wondered, when I’ve seen rural Bulgarian property for sale very cheaply (for example http://bulgarianpropertyfinder.com/property/cheap-bulgarian-house-rus8321/ whether this would be a possibility for an Amish settlement. I think that the stumbling block would be the need for new churches to be registered – I’m not sure what criteria would need to be satisfied to obtain registration.
Do Amish people ever consider a return to Europe?
I had a few questions.
If an Amish man was married and had children, and his wife died. What would be done? Would he shave his beard? Who would help with the children?
What would happen if an Amish man (for instance a widower with children) married a non Amish that did not convert to the Amish community?
Two Questions: Children and Shunning
From what I’ve seen the Amish are not affectionate. Parents don’t hug or kiss their children. Is there a religious reason for this?
If you leave the community after being baptized you’re shunned. Are people who leave before joining the church, allowed to visit their families?