80/20 principle

4 Ways Using the 80/20 Principle Will Make You a Better Dad

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The Pareto principle, or the 80/20 rule, states that 20 percent of what happens causes 80 percent of results. In business, you can track 80 percent of your revenue from only 20 percent of your customers. You might find that the same 20 percent of volunteers complete 80 percent of your church’s volunteer work.

The Pareto principle applies to almost everything, from real estate and mathematics to literature and even the clothes you wear. So, why not apply it to parenting? Here is how to parent better using the 80/20 principle.

Giving 20 percent of your attention will lead to 80 percent of quality time spent with your children.

Your children crave your attention—not all of it; just 20 percent. Your attention is split into multiple areas: work, your marriage, your kids, your side hustle. It spreads you thin. Your attention span may feel under attack when your child asks you to play, come to her softball game, or help him with his geography homework. If you ignore your kids, this creates attention-seeking behavior 80 percent of the time. Instead, offer positive attention to satisfy the 20 percent. Make eye contact, smile, ask questions, listen, and set time aside with just them. You will see their behavior change as you provide positive attention. 

Controlling 20 percent of your emotional reactions leads to 80 percent of your child’s positive behavior.

Yelling, screaming, hitting, or other abrupt emotional reactions negatively impact your child’s behavior. Imagine finding a joint in your teenager’s room. If you overreact, chances are your teen will continue hiding marijuana from you. Fear tactics cause emotional devastation resulting in pain. Uncontrollable emotional reactions only work sparingly, but a controlled emotional response even just 20 percent of the time will yield the majority of your kid’s positive behaviors. Call a time-out before reacting, establish firm rules as a family to discuss regularly, or learn to parent with love and logic.

When 20 percent of kids’ experiences are new, those experiences will result in 80 percent of their critical thinking skills.

Exposing kids to new experiences strengthens their brains. By encouraging 20 percent of new experiences, like a trip to a different country, learning a new language, taking on a musical instrument, or listening to random TED talks, you create 80 percent of their critical thinking and creative problem-solving skills. Make “learning new experiences” a part of your weekly tradition as a family. Try new recipes, take a different route to their school, or read a new-to-you literature genre to expand your child’s brain with the 80/20 principle. 

Only 20 percent of the time spent with your kids leads to 80 percent of your struggle as a parent.

Look at your child’s inappropriate behavior as a ‘lack of skills’ rather than as a personal attack.

The majority of our frustration as parents stems from a small percentage of interactions with our kids. It feels much larger because when you’re struggling, it feels like you’re always struggling. If we change our mindset around 20 percent of challenging encounters with our kids, we will begin to react with more peace and clarity. One suggestion: Look at your child’s inappropriate behavior as a “lack of skills” rather than as a personal attack. This technique will help you parent proactively rather than reactively.

Earn some points: Are you married? If so, share this iMOM article with your wife: 4 Ways to Accomplish More.

Sound off: What do you do 20 percent of the time that yields 80 percent of your child’s affection?