Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Maxwells on Sports

More from Steve and and Teri Maxwell and their book, Keeping Our Children's Hearts. Up to this point in the book I have agreed with the Maxwell's take on several areas. However, there is a subtle flaw in their thinking. They dedicate a short section to sports and this is the quotation:
There is another danger in sports that can cause you to lose your child's heart--the coach. It is a fact that those under a coach's authority are highly influenced by him. In other words, the hearts of the team members are drawn to their coach. Even if the coach is a positive role model, if your child's heart is pulled to him, it is being drawn away from you. When that happens, your ability to guide your child's life is potentially diminished. Why allow this?
After reading this section of the book, it finally became clear to me what the needling sensation was that has overridden the entire course of the book. Something had been prodding me about the Maxwells' general attitude toward their children and though I agree with the general principle behind sheltering, the key premise of the book, as well as how essential sheltering is to keeping your child's heart, it became clear to me that the Maxwells are pushing for an authoritarianism I am not completely comfortable with.

My seven-year old daughter plays soccer so my ire was not provoked simply because I have a daughter playing a sport. However, the Maxwells are following a "b necessarily follows a" pattern. Just because my daughter plays soccer does not mean we will lose her heart; quite the contrary. I can see their concerns and how that might be troubling for some parents, but if I have my child's heart, can I not delegate authority unto another and not feel as if my sheltering has been done in vain or fear "losing" her?

I believe that authority can be delegated in such a way. God delegates authority and I believe this is a general principle the Maxwells have overlooked. God has delegated authority to several institutions; He has given some unto government, some unto the church, some unto the family, divided upon the mother and father.

The government has authority in areas the church doesn't have; the church in areas the government does not. The family has authority the church does not have. God has delegated authority unto the husband that the wife does not have. Even Jesus recognized Himself as one under the authority of another. When my daughter plays soccer, it is necessary that she is under the authority of the coach; otherwise she will not play the game well. The Maxwells' position seems to cross the line of pure authoritarianism and not loving parenting.

Parents can effectively delegate their authority unto another without the threat of losing their child. The authority delegated to the coach is not necessarily an authority that should concern a parent. His responsibility is to teach the child to play a game--that is what I expect out of my daughter's coach. I do expect him to teach sportsmanship but that is about as close as I expect him to get to teaching values, morality, and ethics.

Authority is not a tenuous thing in my home, so that is perhaps where my umbrage arises. Sports can become an idol in a child's life yet it can also be an appropriate and beneficial activity. Not knowing the Maxwells personally I can only offer this as conjecture, but it seems that their positions on authority seem to be borne almost of paranoia of losing their own kids and that drives their premises rather than a balanced look at the Scriptures.

A family should shelter their children from horrible things in the world, but to completely disengage from society is neither healthy nor biblical. A parent ought to be comfortable delegating some authority out to another, particularly in areas where the parent has no experience (I cannot effectively teach my daughter to play soccer). If this is done correctly, the child will see no confusion there and that that person's authority extends only into the realm into which it has been delegated.


Bernard Shuford said...

I'm always rather delighted for an opportunity for my kids to learn how to interact with adults. I think these fine folks, as you say, must be a bit paranoid. I will NEVER lock my kids up to prevent them seeing other viewpoints. For one thing, I don't want "the other side" to look too attractive to a rebellious teenager when that comes around.

Of course, my logic may be flawed...

Heather said...

A great post. What do you think they're take is on dance teachers? My daughter spends 3 hours every week with her dance teacher. She is a godly woman, but nonetheless a coach in a sense ... just wondering if thry limit this belief to sports?

~Heather :)

Anonymous said...

"just wondering if thry limit this belief to sports?"

I was wondering the same thing, heather. What about SS teachers, school teachers, coaches, etc.? What about extended family members? Where do you draw the line at who you allow to "steal their heart?"

I do think we must be careful who we allow to influence our child (write on their slate), but to me it seems beneficial to have multiple positive influences in their lives.

I guess Hannah (Samuel's mother) was a terrible mother. Not only did she delegate the raising of her child to another, the one she picked was less than skilled in the parenting department.

Tony said...

I think we are all on the same page here.

Heather, the Maxwells would go ballistic on you for taking your child to dance. Seriously.

I was planning on posting on their isolationist viewpoint, but we'll talk about it here!

They actually address all of those...What about SS teachers, school teachers, coaches, etc.? What about extended family members? They draw the line at essentially anyone who has even a remotely negative influence.

The most tragic is there treatment of extended family members. They pass them off with a "Well, you have to make the understand" mentality.

Their strict isolationist view is in my mind, more dangerous than allowing them to do whatever they want. If you shelter a child to the extent that they never see anything of the world it will generate a hunger in them to see it, a premise that is antithetical to their perceived goals in the book!

I take a position that Michael Pearl advocates, that you, under parental guidance, expose them to what they need, nothing more (I'm being painfully brief!).

They shelter their kids so much that they have church in a nursing home on Sunday morning and they visit a widow every Wednesday evening.

This length is in my mind, neither healthy nor biblical.

Tony said...

Oh, and btw, they have two adult children still living at home; one is 28 and one is 26.

JoeG said...

Tony -
You weren't kidding when you said I'd be appalled by this post! This is paranoia at its worst! I agree with the other comments, these parents are gearing these kids up for the worst rebellion possible. I fear this is going to backfire in a major way. What's wrong with relinquishing some control to a coach?
My 5 year old son is taking karate lessons. Two weeks ago, some kid in his preschool class was annoying the heck out of him (the kid is a royal pain). My son tried to resist him at first, but rather than walk away, he let the kid get the better of him. He finally pulled two karate moves and the kid bumped his head as he fell, thankfully not even a scrape. When the teacher told my wife when she picked him up, she certainly gave him a royal scolding. But rather than go home, she took him straight to his karate teacher. My kid was so scared he didn't even want to walk inside! His Sensei is one of the nicest people you could ever meet, and he is GREAT with the kids. But he told my son that he could get kicked out of class if he used his karate offensively again, and that even he as the teacher could get in huge trouble. After 10 minutes talking to his Sensei, my son was set straight. I want him to have that kind of relationship with his coach, it builds trust and respect. Sensei is there to teach him a lesson, and he was in a better position than us to effectively talk to him about the consequences of using his karate that way. We also spoke with our son and gave him a punishment at home as well, and he knows he is out of that class if he ever does it again. But he has been handling that annoying kid in a much different way ever since!
I presume the Maxwells would think me a horrible parent for relinquishing some control in that situation. But my wife and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

GordonCloud said...

This is an excellent post, Tony, and I agree with you completely.

Let me just illustrate the benefits of other adults having influence on our children.

My oldest son is a gung-ho athlete who would play ball 24/7 if he could. Lack of confidence has never been a problem for him, if anything, I have to work at keeping his feet on the ground. ;-)

My youngest, on the other hand, is a bit more reticent where sports are concerned. He enjoys them, but has not felt the same confidence that his brother has. After a little coaxing, I got him to agree to try it one more year this season.

His two coaches, good Christian men that I have really come to respect and admire, have had such a positive influence on him, developing his skills and building his confidence, that he is now eagerly looking forward to next season.

My point is, these two men did not "steal" him at all from me, but actually became my allies in helping him to overcome an obstacle in his life.

Tony said...


I aim to please. ;)

I think the Maxwells would have duck fits for more reasons than just "relinquishing some control." As I remarked to Heather, and I didn't elaborate because I was in a hurry, they take a dim view of anything that could give any appearance of evil, and I think they push a bit too far.

I do not know what kind of dance Heather takes her daughter to, but even if it is ballet, it would be stepping too close to provocative dancing for them. Likewise, with martial arts lessons, they would have a fit because it may introduce them to new age philosophy; never mind the physical benefit, learning to play well with others, discipline, etc.

I would be more prone to give the Maxwells the benefit of the doubt here if they had not detached themselves to such a degree from society.

Like I said in the post, they follow a "b necessarily follows a pattern." I know some strong Christians who take martial arts and some strong Christian parents with great kids who also let their parents take dance. It all depends on what you are doing at home.


Its good to see you. Your illustration is a point I think the Maxwells miss completely. Like my daughter learning soccer, there was something there that my daughter wanted and I could not provide.

I knew nothing beyond kicking a black and white ball into a goal. Oh yeah, you cannot touch it with your hands either. So my options were two-fold; she either doesn't play or register her for AYSO soccer. The Maxwells would of course say she doesn't play, find something else for her to do.

That is a problem, I believe.

selahV said...

Tony, your points are well taken when a parent is involved in their child's life. However, there may be some validitity to the Maxwell's point when a parent is not involved don't you think? selahV

Tony said...

Mrs. V,

I don't disagree at all; in the context of the post, I was responding with the same logic that the Maxwells use.

They never really examine what a child's life should look life if it lacks parental involvement or if a parent is absent. That is another flaw in the book.

It is written in the assumption that the family is a good, godly stable home with virtually no aberration from that norm. This is the most significant weakness in the book. I could not pass this on to any of the single mothers in the congregation I serve.

Nevertheless, to your point, they do see a modicum of beneficence in other people being involved in a child's life as long as it is under the direct supervision of the parent(s). However, if a strong parent is not there, that throws a monkey wrench into their system. Without that the child is left to flounder; at lest that is the way I read their logic.

I can appreciate their desire for parents to be responsible in this area but they fail to look at a few points in genuine reality, one of them being that often parents AREN'T involved in their kids' lives.

Karma Shuford said...

Wow. Simply wow.

Yes, I home-school my children. And yes, I do it (partly) because I don't want them to come into contact with (yet) some of the things they would in a public school setting.

However, to disengage your children from interaction with other adults because they might have a negative effect is mind-boggling. It would seem to me that a parent who does as such isn't doing it because they are godly and "good" parents, but because they don't have any confidence in how they are raising their children.

I don't think the Maxwells (and others who hold this belief) are consciously thinking, "My beliefs are not strong enough to hold up against the world's,so I will not let my children have any contact," but the effect is similar.

I *think* as Bernard alluded to, when a child then becomes old enough to make their own decisions, the "others" look so appealing because they are new and exciting.

As far as living at home until 26 and 28: with the exception of 3 years in Boone, I lived at home until I was almost 27. Not because I had to, but heck, it was free. I had *no* expenses except maybe a car payment. Why not??? :)

CB Scott said...


I don't know if I have ever posted a comment on one of your posts before,so, please do not feel as if you are about to be invaded by the Warlord of a "religious" street gang.

Due to events, I'll say, from another blog I decided to come over here and read your posts.

I will not make this a very long comment, although, I must say I am very impressed with much of what I have read, especially this particular post and the comments in the thread.

I have not read the Maxwell book. From what you say, I have read many books like it and have been involved with many of parents of their mind-set.

I think you have done a good job here and so have those who have commented thus far.

Tony, I never had the opportunity to be a child or a teenager. I grew up on a flat rock just outside the gates of hell. My world was one of being around hard men. They were tough, but they lived by a code of honor and conduct that I will never cease to admire.

When God saved me I left that life and entered the civilized world as a new Believer totally outside of my element. By the grace of God I met and married a true-blue, Christian woman who was cultured and very civilized. It was a marriage between Mother Teresa and Attila the Hun. Yet, by the grace of God it has been a wonderful journey.

We have reared many children. My primary degree is in early childhood development (Strange, huh?).

I think this post does speak to a real problem, not among casual followers of Christ, but to one of those who seek to be very dedicated. (Satan has no problem devouring the children of casual Christians. He has to be smooth and tricky to get those of the dedicated.)

This is a good post and worth reflection by any who truly realize we are, as Christian parents, in a war with the Prince of Darkness. Of course, our victory is in the very Son of God, Himself.

Bernard Shuford, Get a better cap. :-)


Bernard Shuford said...

Actually I have a better hat. It's only one year old, and it actually includes the words "Tar Heels". Take that, Bulldog Scott.


Tony said...


I agree--I have come away from reading that book feeling as if the Maxwells have some serious insecurity issues.

It is almost as if they are so afraid they are going to fail that they are setting themselves up for it; I could be wrong, but in cultivating an environment of grace it seems almost devoid of it.

Well, I wasn't chiding anyone for living at home until a certain age. (And I think you understood that, at least I think that is what your smiley presupposed.)

I do think it is a little bit telling that the Maxwells have two grown children still at home, given this isolationist approach to parenting.


Tony said...


Greetings brother, and welcome. Feel free to join our little discussions here at anytime.

Thanks for taking the time to stop by and I hope you find this a worthy blog to occupy your attention again in the future, and not because of some haggling on another blog.

It sounds like through the grace of Christ you have met and overcome much in your life. I look forward to hearing more and learning about your life, if you so choose.

And by the way, I don't think you remember. You were my group leader in Supervised Ministry at SEBTS in spring of '02. I wish I could remember the prof's name...dadgummit. (It wasn't Motley.)

CB Scott said...


Actually I do remember, but I was afraid you might not. So I wasn't going to mention it.:-) The faculty member in charge was Ned Matthews.


Tony said...


That's it!! Cool. While I was in VA, he came and preached revival at a church in our association. He did a great job. He has one strong voice, too. Man, can he sing.

Once again, thanks for stopping by. I don't typically blog too much SBC here. Gets too controversial. :)

But I do like to talk about raising kids, the occasional post on theology, doing ministry, and I owe a pagan friend a post on Wicca and Mithraism. Join in anytime.