Finding the Key


Every Primary has one. He is sure that something more interesting is going on behind him. He couldn’t face a Sunday without snapping a rubber band on at least one of his neighbors’ legs. He couldn’t bear to sit through an entire class without inspecting the bottom of his chair. Scott was one of these children.

Scott’s CTR teacher brought me weekly laments about his misbehavior, and I experienced similar behavior during Sharing Time. Even at the conclusion of Primary, he didn’t stop. Every Sunday after closing exercises, Scott would hurry to the front of the meeting room, unplug the portable microphone, and roll up the cord into a neat circle. Often Scott would follow me as I went to borrow the bishop’s key to lock it up.

With the hustle and bustle of straightening classrooms at the end of Primary, I soon began handing the key to Scott and allowing him to lock the cabinet himself.

One Sunday evening after our meetings, I casually mentioned to my husband, who was then serving in the bishopric, how Scott had taken an interest in the microphone. “You know, he’s been very responsible and reliable,” I said. “He even directs the children who assist him.” We laughed at how children can feel so important when doing a seemingly unimportant task.

My husband mentioned that the key didn’t unlock anything else and that the bishop might allow Scott to have his own copy for use in setting up the microphone each week.

Suddenly, a key in another lock clicked. My mind opened to the way each Sunday Scott had carefully returned the microphone to the pulpit cabinet. Although other children had sometimes joined in to help, none had stuck with it as Scott had. Maybe Scott just needed some responsibility. Maybe he just wanted to feel needed.

The next Sunday we presented Scott with his own key and gave him the responsibility for setting up and taking down the microphone. Scott beamed over his new assignment. Even Scott’s older brothers were impressed.

A short time later, Scott’s mother told me of the change in Scott. “He would fight me every Sunday morning and beg to stay home from church,” she explained. “He was getting to be very difficult. But now he can’t wait to go. In fact, he insists we get there early!”

Scott’s teacher also commented how much better he was doing in class. “He seems to have taken on a new maturity.”

I realized then how important it is that we teachers and leaders reach each child in Primary by getting to know each one’s likes and dislikes, hobbies and interests, needs and desires.

Children respond to positive reinforcement and are apt to learn good behavior when they feel loved and needed. As with Scott, getting to know each of the children and finding the key to helping him or her feel accepted and wanted in Primary will often unlock a love for the gospel.

[illustration] Illustrated by Richard Brown

[photo] Photography by Lavoy Mann

Tina Nokes, a free-lance writer, serves as first counselor in the Primary presidency of the Long Beach First Ward, Long Beach California Stake.