How to Train Your Sluggard (Or Cultivating a Strong Work Ethic)

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If you want to teach spiritual principles to your children, look no further than the book of Proverbs. King Solomon graciously supplies us with word pictures and object lessons. Check out Proverbs 10:26 (NIV), “As vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so are sluggards to those who send them.”

Let’s examine Solomon’s word pictures: vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes. Both assault the senses almost to the point of pain. Just reading the verse makes me wince. 

This verse speaks to work ethic. Discipline and diligence demand development. Solomon pictures what happens when they don’t develop.

Merriam-Webster defines a sluggard as a habitually lazy person. Lazy people not only erect obstacles that hinder personal success, but also handicap those who work over, with, and under them. 

Remember group projects in school? Who was the person you dreaded having in your group because you knew you would be doing your work—and theirs too? 

Here are some tips to cultivating a strong work ethic:

1. Identify weaknesses. What tends to trip them up?

2. Remove distractions.

3. Set SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-based.

4. Know your why. Why is this goal important? What will be gained from it?

5. Execute the plan. Start with small steps. 

6. Push through the hard part. Feelings don’t matter.

7. If they are disciplined in one area (like athletics or music), extend that discipline to a problem spot. 

8. Celebrate success with small rewards along the way and a big reward at the end.

Help them transform their habitual laziness into a disciplined work ethic. It’s a win-win for everyone.


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