Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Maxwells on Sibling Relationships

Maintaining good relationships between siblings is difficult. I read this section of the Maxwells' book with great interest and gleaned much insight from it, unlike some of the areas of the book I have already blogged and commented on in the threads. Having five children, situations can get pretty tense at times yet I do desire that my children have good relationships with one another.
We want to build strong relationships between the children. This can happen by encouraging them to spend time with each other rather than others. When our older children were younger, before we began sheltering as we now do, we found that the more they played with friends, the less nice they were to their siblings. They seemed to always prefer to be with a friend rather than their own brother or sister. Their attitudes toward each other were more unkind and sarcastic. Through sheltering from the negative influences of friends, we have gained the benefit of solid brother and sister relationships.
As per the Maxwells' ideology, they go a little far for my comfort. I have seen the things the Maxwells describe in my children's lives, but also have seen some benefits. I wish the Maxwells had made some delineation and not a blanket statement as it seems they are making; "all friendships are bad" or "all friendships have negative results."

I have seen this play out with my children, that when they were around less than kind children, their attitudes and demeanor tended to rub off on them. Water does run downhill, after all. However, some friendships have had positive impact upon them. Needless to say, all relationships involve an element of risk--opening your heart, to use their terminology, and it seems they are unwilling for that to occur.

There are times when parents should make hard decisions; that perhaps the child should not be playing or spending time with another child, for whatever reason. There may be times when a child may have to be told that they do not get to spend time with another child. However, eradicating any hope of positive influence for the sake of protecting them from some negative seems to me to be an overreach that could have less than beneficial results later in life.

Ultimately, I share the Maxwells' hope that my children have hearts that are turned toward one another, that they would desire to spend time with one another and develop those bonds that last a lifetime. However, to discount the possibility of friendships is neither healthy nor biblical. I think of Abraham being called a friend of God, David's and Jonathan's relationship, Christ's relationships with His disciples, and ultimately, that Christ is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

It is my prayer that my children develop solid sibling relationships, but I believe that they can be cultivated without precluding any other relationships that could be of potentially lifelong benefit as well.


Bernard Shuford said...

I would LOVE to have "sheltered" my son from the nonsense that he endured on Sunday. (http://karmashuford.blogspot.com/2008/05/when-parenting-hurts.html)

However, I intentionally "held back" while it was happening. Was the little girl a negative influence? You bet. Did I LIKE seeing Travis hurt? No, I would have preferred to beat the mother with a stick, but that was not the Christlike thing to do...

My point is this - Travis was hurt, and he doesn't like the thought of the park right now, but he learned a good lesson about hurting others that he would never have learned quite the same way without this ugly situation.

"Sheltering"??? I can't see it as a valid parental technique. Some things have to be learned a hard way. Social skill is one of those things. I WANT my kids to learn to play with kids who only speak Spanish. I think it's healthy. I want my kids to learn to live Christlike in a world that hates Christ. Waiting until they are 30 to try to teach that seems, to me, myopic and unwise.

JoeG said...

These people are off the charts. My son has been in daycare since he was 3 months old. He is now 5. Has there been some negative influence from kids who don't behave right? Absolutely. But you can't shelter kids from this. They are going to experience this every day of their lives until the day they die! They need to learn to deal with it, and the earlier the better. If your kid is misbehaving due to the influences of other children, then PARENT your kid, dammit! The Maxwells apparently have no faith or confidence in their ability to help their kids learn proper behavior over the influence of others. They have no faith in their parenting skills, so they eliminate all other influences. That is dangerous, and these kids are going to have serious trouble later in life when they hit the "real world" for the first time at age 18 or 21 and have no clue how to handle life's negativity without running back to mommy and daddy.

Tony said...


I went and read that whole post. Looks like you did the right thing; I have had to pick up the kids and leave the park before because of similar incidents.

I don't want to brush sheltering aside completely; there are some valid points to it. HOWEVER, I am not going to go to the lengths that the Maxwells go.

I think it is healthy for children to have exposure to various types of kids. I think in all the Maxwells' attempts to be biblical, they have left out some key biblical concepts, genuine friendship being one and being in the world and not of the world another.


You need to work on self-expression, my friend. You seem to have much difficulty there. :)

Your point has been a contention of mine throughout the course of blogging this book. I don't totally despise the Maxwells' approach; I think they just go too far.

We can and should shelter to an extent--if my kids are being so negatively influenced that it is overwhelming them and disrupting their relationships with their parents or siblings, then I am ready to make a tough decision. I am going to employ sheltering to a degree.

I am concerned about how the Maxwells perceive themselves--I wonder if they are as insecure as they seem to be. I almost am prone to believe that they are trying to push parents so far into "sheltering" that if parents relent somewhat then they would still be OK.

And also, from reading the Maxwells' blog, I don't think they shelter their own kids (they have 8) to the extent that they advocate in this book.

Karma Shuford said...

To further tie the post bernard alluded to, tony, kristi was very upset about leaving. When she asked why she couldn't play with "those kids," I explained that they weren't being really nice to her brother, did she really want to play with someone that was mean to her big brother? One part of me felt kinda bad about doing that, for a reason I've not quite identified, but another part of me wanted to start teaching that sibling loyalty at a young age.

As far as friends, etc. Growing up, my sister (and brother, but that is another story) were about as mean to me as anyone could be. I remember, though, one day when one of Kelly's friends in the neighborhood started making fun of me for something, and Kelly let her have it, literally. Shawn never bothered me again. Another time was on vacation when some kid starting picking on me (I'm seeing a trend here; never noticed it before), and again, Kelly put the fear of God in him.

I think there is a natural relationship that has tendency to defend your sibling -- what needs nurturing is the "friend" part of it.

My thoughts at this point (children aged 6 and 3) is that, yes, I am going to shelter them, but not to the extent that they are never exposed to anything. Just as I didn't let Kristi traverse our stairs when she was 18 months old, because she wasn't ready, and some serious damage could have been done, I'm not going to purposely expose them to issues that they are not prepared to deal with, be it physical, emotional, mental, or intellectual.

Tony said...


Thanks for filling in some blanks.

I know what you went through growing up, except I was on the giving end. I used to pick on my sister horribly. However, when another neighborhood kid thought he could get away with it, I jumped him.

There was a massive disconnect there that my parents never taught me how to deal with; the "friend" aspect was never nurtured. I never really was taught to love my brothers and sisters, so to a degree I can see where the Maxwells are coming from.

I would have much rather been with anyone than my sister. My brother is eleven years younger than me, so we grew up pretty much apart, though the Maxwells make some good points that older siblings ought to be good friends with their younger siblings. They have some good thoughts there and some I wish I had been shown because though I love my brother (and my sister) dearly we do not really know each other terribly well.

But, with five kids living in a small house, they really need to get along well if nothing more than for sanity's sake.

JoeG said...

Tony -
Yeah, I really shouldn't hold back so much. I've always been the reserved type. :)

I agree there are times when sheltering is necessary. I just think the level the MAxwells take it to is barbaric and counterproductive. I hope, as you seem to think, that they are not this bad with their own kids based on their blog posts. But to even advocate it to this extreme is worrisome.

That being said, I agree with you that if something was having a negative impact on my son's positive personality or his relationship with us, or other family, I would likely remove him from the situation if at all possible. I don't really think of it as sheltering, but protecting and teaching until he is able to understand better and deal with it himself. He is 5, he doesn't have all of the skills yet to deal with every situation. In some cases, it is right to remove him. But not all of the time.

Tony said...


We are not far apart at all in this regard; same page, different paragraphs. I think it comes down to what the parents think their kid can handle. As Bernard and Karma illustrated, it was best for them to get their kid out of that situation. However, there have been times where I have left one of my children in a situation. Some things you just do not learn except by OJT.

They have come back to me and said, "You know, Daddy, when we were talking about such-and-such...I just saw it play out."

I can lecture until the proverbial cows come home but they have to experience it first hand or they will never learn to deal.

I don't think the term "sheltering" should carry such a negative connotation, though. It does have some positive aspects but certainly can go too far.

And btw, one of my daughters is five.

Karma Shuford said...

I agree totally about the removal vs. leaving. In the situation at the park, we actually let Travis deal with it for several minutes (15, maybe) before leaving.

And then, we left because I was about to open a big ole can on the mom. Not exactly the example I want set.

OT, slightly, I heard a "radio preacher" this morning (David Jeremiah, maybe) and he was quoting one mother -- Abraham Piper's wife, maybe) and their approach was very different from the Maxwells. They tried to expose thier children to as many different kinds of people as possible. They felt that would help them relate to people in a more.

Tony said...


I am not comfortable "exposing" my kids to whatever is out there. I like Michael and Debi Pearl's, take on it. They expose their kids to what they think they can handle when they think they can handle it. There are some things they totally protect their kids from; gratuitous violence, porn, hard drugs, and the like.

However, they "school" them in those things so they know how to recognize it when they see it and give them the good wisdom to avoid it.

And I have come close to opening up a few cans of my own on a few particular occasions, but like that great thinker Forrest Gump said, "That's all I'm gonna say about that."

Karma Shuford said...

continued -- sorry to leave my last comment unfinished; my tester showed up and I had to post and run.

Qualifier -- It wasn't a blind exposure, based on what she had written, and Jeremiah (?) was reading. What it was, though, was an exposure to people of other countries and nationalities -- mostly in the form of exchange students and missionaries. However, they did have friends that came from single parent homes, etc. with the intent that they would know, and love, people of all kinds.

To me, the exposure of my kids to the world is best done like my approach to sun bathing -- a little bit at a time, with a degree of control, is a whole lot more healthy and beneficial than big old, uncontrolled doses.

(And it may have been Abraham Piper's mother, not sure).

JoeG said...

Tony -
5 year olds in common too...nice! Yes, I absolutely feel we are close on the same page. I like the Pearl's method as you mention in your last post. To me, that is a good approach. And yes, there are definitely times to take kids out of situations.