Listen to Levi: Amish Children and Obedience


photo: Randall Persing Amish photography

Amish Society was the first book I ever read on the Amish and I am continually re-reading bits and pieces.

I thought I’d share a few  with you, like this bit on the kiddos:

‘The relationship between authority and responsibility is learned very early.  Although the younger children must obey the older ones, the older children may not make arbitrary demands on the younger.  The four-year-old is expected to hand over his toy to a younger child if he cries for it, but in the absence of the parents the younger one must obey the older.’


photo:  Bill Coleman Amish photography

As an older brother, I must admit I’ve been guilty of ‘arbitrary demands’ inflicted on little (not-so-little-anymore) Alex while we were growing up.

I find it fascinating that the Amish inculcate this hierarchy of obedience to elder siblings, especially when the ‘elder sibling’ may be a mere five or six– and with an even younger sibling hoisted onto one hip while mom works on dinner.

Bonus: With the little ones taking on responsibility, do the Amish really care about their children’s safety? Well, of course.   Though it might not always seem that way…

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    1. Dave Carrig

      I read the “Riddle of Amish Culture” to try and learn more about the Amish – and I came away with more answers than questions. Very dissappointing to me.

      Kraybill tends to look at things from a Socieological point of view – which is okay I suppose but I wanted to find some theological meat about the Amish and what makes them tick from a religous stand-point.

      I recently found a book by a guy named Daniel E. Mast written back in the early 1900s. It is a book of Mast’s (who is Amish) collected writings entitled “Salvation Full and Free.” Its tough to find as I had to pull it off the shelf in an Amish store here – and I was fortunate to find one in English.

      Great book to really get into the nuts and bolts of Amish theology – why they do things the way they do and why they believe what they believe about a whole range of topics.

    2. Dave Carrig

      Suppose I should rephrase my first sentence in that last post here. I meant to say “I came away with more questions than answers.” Must be my dislexia kicking in…

    3. Safety is important, but there are some things even more important. They can’t be learned without there being risks, too.

      The Amish theology might have something to do with their priorities.

      (I say this as a person who as a 12-year old nearly burned the house down in an attempt to care for my baby sister when I was put in charge of babysitting for her.)

    4. Matthew

      That books sounds very interesting, Dave. Would you mind sharing which bookshop you got this in? I’ll be back on the road this spring and would like to add an Amish bookshop on my list of things to do.

    5. That book sounds very interesting! Too bad we don’t have it around this area!

    6. Dave Carrig

      Matthew – I’ll get you the name and address next time I drive by there. Check back here in about a week.

    7. Guys, I need an Amish bookshop here in Poland. I am killing both my suitcases and my back lugging my library back and forth betwen continents 🙂

    8. Nevah

      I was wondering how you found your job amongst the Amish commmunity? Do you have any resources to where I can find employment in other Amish communities as well? Thank you.

    9. Finding jobs to be able to work with Amish

      Hi Nevah, I don’t know that I have any formal resources that I can offer you–perhaps the Sugarcreek Budget may have some ads, or maybe the best way would be to look at posted ads in dry goods stores and the like in Amish areas. It would probably depend on what you would like to do. I have been in direct sales, so I basically just approached thousands of Amish people that I’d never met before, selling a Bible set called Family Bible Library along with some other children’s books. I absolutely love it, but I don’t know if that is what you’d be looking for?

    10. Nevah

      Thank you for the info.

      1. Billy karasz

        Family bible library

        I’m interested in it how much is it and what does it contain.

        Bill karasz

    11. Dave Carrig

      Matthew – sorry I haven’t responded sooner. I’d be curious to know if you checked back here – please reply if so.

      I drove by the book store today. It is on Leahcock road. If you are going west on 340 you turn left on Leahcock and go down about 5 miles or so – it is on the left. The turn is right by the winery (if you are familiar with the area) a couple of miles west of Intercourse.

      Again – sorry I took so long to respond. I forgot about this.

    12. Interesting

      It is interesting how different people and different cultures manage or fail to manage sibling interactions. I read a couple of (conventional society) American books for around age 8+ recently, and one of the things that rather startled me was the fact that the older sister is being expected to babysit the younger without being given any authority over her at all, which is totally unfair and impractical. The kids are 14 and 6, so it isn’t inappropriate that way, but something of an Agnes Grey type problem in that she can’t do anything about what the younger sister does or demands except endure it. This authority-but-you-must-take-responsibility attitude actually sounds much more sensible.

      Also, it would seem to me that minding/entertaining a baby/toddler in their own home with an adult in call is probably within the capacity of a lot of six year olds, certainly ones who are used to younger children? I would contend that normal children don’t need adults within arms’ reach for every second of their time… so long as an adult is somewhere near to help if something goes wrong. I helped for a while in a playgroup that had all the under fives in the same room; all the older siblings (from a range of social backgrounds) knew perfectly well how to behave safely and (usually) appropriately around “their” baby, though it took me a while to relax about it!