I finished Keeping Our Children's Hearts: Our Vital Priority by Steven and Teri Maxwell. The overarching premise of the book, explained by the title, is apropos. It is something much needed in the milieu of contemporary society where children are generally treated not as blessings and familial assets, which the Bible teaches they are, but as liabilities that put a strain on families.
I found myself in strong agreement with that general premise and even the Scriptural basis for the penning of the book, Proverbs 23:26: "My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways." However, the exegesis to justify "sheltering", a key concept of the book, was strained. To be fair, Steve Maxwell is not theologically trained (not that that really makes a difference) but many of the verses he uses he pushes their meanings too far to achieve his own end.
A biblical case may be made for "sheltering" 'a la Maxwell, but Steve drew his theological justification from typical child-raising passages; Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and Ephesians 6:4 and sprinkled a few ethical passages to make his points. I would have been much more comfortable with that section of the book had he just said, "This is what we practice in our family and I found it works," rather than making a strained Biblical case.
The Maxwells also advocate an isolationist approach that is separationist and even monkish in its ideal. I addressed this approach in the comment stream of this post and found agreement that isolationism can be as unhealthy for children as outright exposure to all manner of evil. To quote myself from that stream,
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!Balance and knowing your child is the key. The book also seemed to be written with a condescending tone. Having talked to Steve personally at a conference once before, I did feel his discourse was tinged with a bit of patronization. He seemed to hold judgment against parents that did not follow their prescribed methods and that all other methods were inferior. They characterize their approach as "biblical" which is perfectly fine, but their are other methods that are also "biblical" and the Maxwells seem to have no room in their view for any other and that another approach might be equally valid.
I also found the book very short on application; though there were some tender and appealing stories about sheltering their own kids, little practical instruction was given on how to begin "sheltering" at home, if it something that you haven't been doing all along. The Maxwells approached their method as one that you must do at the outset of parenting and if you haven't been "sheltering" all along then their is the high probability that you will fail. No remedy is offered for failure which is the book's most significant weakness. The fulcrum tilts toward law; following the rules, unquestioning obedience, absolute parental authority, yet very little grace to encourage that behavior. Vignettes of grace are sprinkled throughout the book's pages yet grace does not seem to be the motivating factor. I found the overarching tone to be that if you are not raising your children this way then you are inferior parents.
This leads me to why I would probably not recommend this book to church folks or other parents unless they have highly discerning hearts. Though the overall premise is sound, it is lost in the way it is presented. It is not the worst book I have read on parenting, but unfortunately, neither is it the best.