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.