Keys, Locks, Kids, & Freedom

Today while shopping for Christmas ornaments I kept ignoring ones for my kids that I would have been drawn to in the past. I don’t want to buy an ornament that represents something that has caused them pain and disappointment when it should have caused them joy.

While Chris and I kept looking at ornaments, I found one that was a fancy lock. It got me thinking.

I like old keys, locks, door knobs, and clocks. Why? I don’t know, but do. Just this week Chris brought me a whole box of old keys. I can’t wait to do something with them.

But what?

And as I continued to sift through ornaments, I got to thinking about kids in general. To motivate a kid to do something, you must find the right key for the lock.

What good is a key that doesn’t unlock something? It is of no value at all. It is just a piece of metal in an interesting shape.

However, if one can find the lock that the key opens, then the key could be worth unknown wealth.

Why do kids choose to do any extracurricular activities? Scouts, church groups, athletic activities, organized hobbies, and clubs all compete for kids attention and time. Why, however, do kids actually choose to attend any of those activities? We could rephrase the question, “What motivates kids to be involved?”

I’m going to make this very simplistic tonight, but I believe that there are a very few things that motivate kids to get involved in activities that aren’t mandatory.

Some are seeking escape in whatever way they can find it, and some are seeking reward and recognition. Thrown in the mix are the kids who have a God-given natural ability for the activity. Those are the ones that we hope also have the desire to do the activity. I don’t want to focus on the gifted, though. I want to focus on the two bound groups.

Bound group one is trying to escape a negative situation more than likely at home. This group will join every club, sport, activity, and group in an attempt to not have to be in the negative situation any more than possible. Their main goal is simply to be busy.

They don’t actually believe they have talent in any area, so they have no hopes of being “good” at any of the events they get involved in. This does not affect their desire to be involved, however. Remember, the only goal here is to escape a negative situation elsewhere.

This group of kids are locked up by their own fear. They probably aren’t going to tell the adult in charge why they’re there. They aren’t going to share their goal. They are going to do what’s asked, but attempt to be as invisible as possible. They will not try to draw attention to themselves. Escaping means they must be good enough to make the cut, but not good enough to be under intense scrutiny and pushed hard.

These kids wear a lock, actually they probably wear more than one lock, but they definitely wear one lock. If we want to motivate them, we have to find the key that unlocks the lock.

Look for the kid that is involved in everything, flies under the radar, and is great at nothing. I’m willing to bet there’s a reason. Be intentional in encouraging that kid in your particular event by emphasizing just how many more opportunities exist for kids who are at in leadership, who are MVPs, or who are simply willing to work hard. Let them know how to earn scholarships which may be their only chance of going to college through your particular activity.

Stop letting their lock intimidate you the adult and instead dig through the box of keys and find one to fit the lock!

What about those kids bound by a desire for recognition? The lock they wear is different. The same key won’t open it.

They won’t work if you coach them by offering more time away from home. They won’t work harder if you simply encourage them to work towards a scholarship four to six years down the road. Their lock is different. It has an entirely different mechanism.

I will never forget when my kids were in preschool and I would tell one of them I was proud of them for something they had done. The words “proud of you” in our home at that stage were the equivalent of handing one of our teenagers now a brand new piece of technology.

My preschoolers worked to hear those words. They were motivated to do good simply by the a parent saying they were proud of them.

That doesn’t end when kids enter kindergarten, third grade, middle school, or even high school. Tell a kid you’re proud of them for something they’ve done and watch, intentionally, their face, their body language, their entire demeanor change in front of your eyes.

It may be something as simple as “Good job!” or a high five. It may be a piece of candy, a pencil, or a ribbon. The key to motivation for some kids is a reward of some type.

Unfortunately, what happens too often, is kids get to an age where adults decide that kids are going to do what they’re going to do and there’s little to nothing we can do about it. So, we stop digging through the box of keys. We accept the locks and give them more binding power.

All locks are not created equal. Some require a specific key, some a numeric combination, some a little physical effort, and some a little mental effort. But one thing is true of all locks. All locks can be opened with the appropriate key.

I have found myself a little frustrated with individuals who aren’t even willing to try a first key let alone look in the box for a second key. I can’t imagine being willing to intentionally give up on a kid.

Yes, I’m taking it personally. Let me tell you why. I’m thirty-four and in several facets of my life, I still feel like that kid. In a couple different situations in the last twelve months, my own kids have been the ones locked up. I know what it would take for the involved adults to move my kids to the next level…but it won’t work coming from me and the adults don’t want my advice. I see some kids who need unlocked that others keep intentionally placing more locks on.

Folks, we’re all human. Everyone of us has made mistakes. Everyone of us has worn locks of our own. Everyone of us has had someone come along with a key or two and unlock some of those locks.

Along the way, someone has helped us. Not one of us has gotten where we are today on our own. I can’t imagine, nor do I want to, where I’d be today if some people hadn’t gotten involved even in small ways in my life.

This time a year we hear a lot about Random Acts of Kindness and Pay It Forward. I really hope I can be a little more intentional than random. I want my acts to help set people free from bondage, not to accidentally help them feel good for a moment. And I realize that I can never make-up enough from what others have already done for me to actually move on to Paying It Forward. I’m still working on breaking even.

We all walk around with keys. Car keys. House keys. Keys to our place of employment. Perhaps church keys. Keys to our family’s houses or neighbor’s houses. Keys to lawnmowers, ATV’s, tractors. The list could go on and on.

Some of those keys open locks intended to keep intruders out while others bring life to engines. Either way, those keys open something that was closed off.

Everyday our words and our actions operate as keys. We will either be responsible for bind or loosing.

“Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 18:18


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