Why do some children grow up to be emotionally balanced, self-disciplined, godly human beings and others not so much? When the Bible says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it,” it speaks with certainty. Are there specific things parents can do to assure that outcome? What have successful parents of the past done that you might be overlooking?

As a general rule, in the evenings most children end up watching some silly (hopefully inoffensive), nonsense video because their parents are tired and are looking for a way to entertain the children until bedtime. Such a terrible waste of good minds.

The brain is ever gathering information. Everything deposited into the mind will provide the raw material for all future thoughts and behavior. What they think today they will be tomorrow. Nearly all children’s programming depicts people (and talking animals) as silly fools. They are your children’s mentors. YEEK! God laid out a plan to avoid raising fools, and it is easy, doesn’t take but a few moments, and will change the course of your entire family.

Most parents want their children to have wisdom and understanding. God says that the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. Think about it: the very first step to wisdom is to fear God. Otherwise no wisdom. What? Is that shocking to your sensibilities? Daily life is navigated with a healthy dose of fear. Do you teach your children to fear traffic, high places, rushing water, thin ice, dangerous chemicals, lawnmowers, and on and on? Of course you do. Actions have consequences, some quite perilous. If you don’t prepare for a test, you fail. If you don’t obey natural law, you get hurt or die. Likewise we must regard spiritual law or suffer the consequences in this life and in eternity. God holds the power of life and death. He is the arbiter of eternity. To fear government officials (i.e., child protection services, IRS, policemen with radars, etc.) and not fear God is idiotic. To KNOW God’s intentions and his expectations is to fear him. To know God means to know what he loves, who he loves, and why he loves them.

You and your children come to know God by means of his Word. It is a history of how God thinks and responds. Bible stories reveal God and his character. They are the record of what he has been doing the last six thousand years. And to make sure we pay attention to some particular events, in the Old Testament he records them in one book, retells the same story in the next book—often word for word— and then re-retells the exact same event the exact same way in the next book. Plus, about a third of the book of Psalms is David recounting and praising God for all his marvelous ACTS that are recorded in the historical books.

In Scripture, kings came and went. Some were righteous and some were diabolical, depending on whether they were taught God’s history. Even heathen kings that found and read the books of the law religiously sought to honor God and his people. King Cyrus, who was not one of God’s chosen people, found his own name written in the Jews’ history books. He read the two-hundred-year-old prophecy about himself and was awestruck, immediately taking steps to do as God said he should. Psalm 78:6 says that his deeds should be recounted, “That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.”

I have had mothers who were lacking in the fear of God tell me that the Old Testament is too violent so they avoid teaching it to their children. The Bible says, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” He is God and he is the same today as he was in the Old Testament. We need to KNOW HIM as he represents himself, not as we think he should be in some sensibility-correct version.

Stories of success and failure teach us. The story of Rehoboam certainly gives wisdom. He was a young king just coming to the throne, and thus sought the counsel of both older men and younger men. Does an old story like that really matter? The story is recorded twice—that means God thinks it matters! As you may guess, the king chose to heed the advice of men his own age, which ended up causing needless wars and much death. If you have not gained insight into the nature of God by means of these stories, how will you ever communicate it to your children? When they are faced with critical life decisions, will they listen to the old fuddy-duddies or to their peers? God speaks his mind and teaches us wisdom. Psalm 78:4 says, “We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done.”

Another life example comes from King David. He knew he was the chosen of God, which means he had been anointed by God’s prophet to be king. Yet Saul was still on the throne. King Saul was half crazy by the time David was anointed, and he tried to kill David several times. (On a side note, there is a clear path showing what made King Saul go crazy with depression and anger. We can learn a lot from this.) There are some fascinating stories of how David could have killed Saul, and if he had done so he would have had the blessing and even respect of his men. David could have spoken ill of Saul and everyone would have gone along with him, but David would not. David maintained honor and respect: “The LORD forbid that I should do this thing to my master, the LORD’s anointed.” Why did God record these stories? What good are they for your children? Clearly, God is teaching us how the man David, the man God LOVED, the man after God’s own heart, responded with respect and honor for Saul, for God had anointed Saul. If your children are very familiar with these stories of how God worked with his people, they will have wisdom rather than rebellion when they become young adults. God’s WORD is effectual; it works wisdom, understanding, life, and patience into our souls.

Josiah’s story is captivating as well as frustrating. He was one of the most beloved young kings in the Old Testament. Everyone, including God’s prophets, lamented with great sorrow when he was killed. God’s people needed this good king; his death was both untimely and unfortunate. He wasn’t supposed to die. Second Chronicles 35:26 ends with this concerning young King Josiah: “Now the rest of the acts of Josiah, and his goodness, according to that which was written in the law of the LORD . . .” The reason Josiah died earlier than God intended was because he thought he could “pull a big one” and come out alive. Just as Josiah was gearing up for war, the prophet of God arrived breathless and alarmed, telling him, “. . . for God commanded me to make haste: forbear thee [stop you] from meddling with God, who is with me, that he destroy thee not. Nevertheless Josiah would not turn his face from him, but disguised himself . . .” (2 Chronicles 35:21). Josiah’s blood was hot with the thought of war, and he would not stop just because this crazy old prophet showed up in a panic warning him not to go. Josiah laughed and put on a disguise, believing that would confuse the enemy. But you can’t outfox consequences. He was killed that day by a random arrow, and his foolish son took the throne. The whole nation suffered for many years due to Josiah’s lack of “the fear of God.”

We all know the stories of Ruth, Esther, and Job. In each story we learn so much about the heart of God. Job was the first book of the Bible written. Mike says to really understand God, man, and your own feelings, you need to become well acquainted with the book of Job. In this book we learn that Satan visits God’s throne from time to time, has personal talks with God, and even makes deals with him. Job had the misfortune of being one of Satan’s little deals. The majority of the story of Job tells how his loving and righteous friends spent weeks rebuking him for sin. It wasn’t the awful events that almost broke Job; it was his friends’ never-ending judgment that really brought him misery. That is a lesson we all need to know and know well.

These Bible stories build knowledge of God and spiritual laws into us, but it takes a lot of repetitive storytelling to make it become part of a person’s life. The brain doesn’t just hear a story once and record it in some special spiritual place to be pulled up at will, making us wise when we need it. No, we must do what God says and tell it, tell it, read it, read it, and then tell it again.

I know what you are thinking: “How do I accomplish this enormous task of teaching my children ALL the Bible stories?” Glad you asked!

If your goal is to raise wise, honorable children, establish a habit every evening of having the children sit on their beds and listen to the Word of God being read aloud. For the first few evenings you will need to sit with them to make it even more special; then continue to drop in for a few minutes most nights. In your homeschooling the next day, you could have each child tell a little something of what they listened to the night before. You will probably need to help spark their memories, so keep up with what they are listening to each night. The morning rehash will reinforce their learning and it will make you more a part of their evenings, which is a vital part of learning. Anytime a loved one is physically sharing a learning experience, such as sitting together reading, many fellowship areas of the brain are stimulated. These areas of the brain are particularly sensitive, which causes the brain to want to keep the event fresh, so be sure to be a part of your children’s learning experience. Also, as you learned in my book Create a Better Brain through Neuroplasticity, music causes learning to pass back and forth between both lobes of the brain, greatly increasing retention. Therefore, having soft classical music playing in the background while Alexander Scourby reads the Bible will greatly enhance their memory capacity. Our son Nathan says that if any audio recording of the Bible is inspired, it is Alexander Scourby’s reading. It will take some time before the children are happy with the new arrangement, but God will honor your efforts and they will come to look forward to their “reading time” as a normal part of life. Little ones can go to sleep as they listen, 3- and 4-year-olds can color while the reader reads, 5- and 6-year-olds can build with Legos or dress baby dolls, and those who can read can follow along in the Bible and become amazingly good readers and spellers and gain an amazing vocabulary. In the process of hearing the Word of God read aloud, your children’s ability to speak clearly will increase as if by magic, and their brains will catch here a little and there a little until their souls are FULL of God. There are some really good free readers available that bring the Scriptures alive with drama.

It doesn’t matter who you are or how wise you are or that you are always speaking with your children concerning spiritual truths; it takes the stories of God told GOD’s WAY straight from his book to build truth and wisdom into your child. The Word of God is effectual. It is alive and changes our inner being. God said so. The more movies and games they have, the more Hollywood is worked into their souls and minds. You can’t be careless with the mind and think you can overcome what goes in any more than Josiah could avoid the arrow when he disguised himself. Neither the brain nor the soul is created to function like that. You are what you put into your mind.

This is my word to you. God’s Word gives understanding and wisdom. You can’t love, pray, talk, hope, or have a great relationship with your children with any assurance that they will come to know God. All those things are good but they are not the “stuff” wise, godly children are made of. You don’t have to wonder, “How can I raise wise sons and daughters to truly honor God?” God will lead them and they must respond to him, but YOU must open up to them God’s very own words. The ball is in your court, Mama. Get to it today.