Parenting Mantras

The 80-20 Rule

lightbulbWhen it comes to parenting – we all know there are 10,000,000 different styles and each person needs to come up with what works for them. I have a background in process improvement and often rely on the Pareto rule for analyzing causes and effects.

The Pareto rule, named for Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, states that typically 80% of the effects of something come from 20% of the causes. For example, 80% of the errors in a process can be solved by fixing 20% of the known causes. I figure I should use what I know for parenting as well – even though it might make me look dorky in mom circles.

My thought is – strive for 80%. We have goals that we would like to achieve for our daughter. Things such as “No TV during the summer months” and “No junk food”. However, we are also trying to be realistic. We know that a movie night will happen here and there and of course, if we go to a baseball game, hotdogs and garlic fries will be on the menu. Instead of feeling bad about these dips in rules, especially when they should be fun events, we decided that we would loosely employ Pareto’s 80/20 rule here: we will adhere to these items at least 80% of the time and not worry about the rest.

In today’s world of deadlines, mom guilt, food selections, a zillion activities and more data that you could ever want to know about child development and parenting, it’s easy to get anxious about how you will be able to do it all. Instead of opening ourselves up to more anxiety and stress – we agreed that we would strive for roughly 80% adherence to our rules. For example – we will always eat healthy dinners and breakfasts in our house, but we won’t dictate what our kids eat when at a friend’s house or out at a baseball game. We will turn off the TV at our house, but if they are exposed to it at Grandmas, then that’s great.

I find that stress gets in the way of many things and I’m usually the one wanting things to be perfect. This works for me in many other aspects of life, however I am finding with parenting it can be really easy to fizzle and feel crushed under the stress of everything on your to-do list. Practicing the 80/20 rule helps me feel more relaxed about implementing a structure for our daughter knowing that Ill only worry about the parts that I can control on the majority of days.

Does anyone else do this? Any tips for staying on top of your 80%?

1 reply »

  1. It could be due to the differences of academic discipline, but these days I’m happy if I can achieve success greater than 50% of the time. This means I did better than “chance” in the social sciences 🙂 Keeping this in mind helps manage the stressors now in the early weeks of TH’s life. I find though that when things do get overwhelming:

    1. STOP. Instead of pushing through. As long as TH is safe and breathing. I can leave the room.

    2. Don’t judge yourself like a YouTube comment section – meaning don’t over-think the situation as a judgemental outsider. Thoughts of “I’m a terrible parent for doing this or not doing this” or “I really should have better control of this by now” need to stop. Whatever went wrong is going to happen, regardless of who you are or what you know and do. Take it for what it is and move on.

    3. Ask for help… but from the right sources. Contact someone who will give you concrete advice without the negative YouTube comment additives. Local sources have been wonderful in working through some issues, but every once in a while, I’ve gotten an unsupportive lecture or comment that hit harder than usual due to the weariness of parenting. I found myself Google-ing questions more often than asking people around me to avoid the emotional rollercoaster risk.

    We are trying to get some basic “routine” down for TH (sleep, eat, play, repeat) for TH now. I’m not sure if it’s working for her yet, but I find the schedule has personal benefits for me. It gives me something to fall back on when I feel unbalanced. I can at least go back to “the basics” for her.


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