Pareto’s Principle: 80/20 applied to Parenting

I have come across this principle when I read a blogpost by Yaro Starak on this subject. I might have heard about it before but did not have much influence on me.

Yaro is a strong believer and a real life applier of this principle.Another book that I am currently reading also mentions about it. It is by Timothy Ferris and titled as The 4-Hour Workweek.

I have now seen many articles on this subject and its application in the fields of Business, Productivity and Finance. I now notice the same working in my life too and I started learning to apply it to most of my activities. It does take efforts decondition yourself from old learning but yes if done, that is really useful.

What is this 80/20 stuff?

If you are unaware about this principle, have a short look below at its definition from Wikipedia. I won’t be describing it in detail here as I intend to write about my experience about it in parenting.

Taken from Wikipedia:

The Pareto principle (also known as the 80-20 rule, the law of the vital few, and the principle of factor sparsity) states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.


It states in conclusion (very simple ofcourse!) that the 80% of our outcomes in any activity comes from 20% of our efforts. What has been very striking realization for me is that 80% of world’s wealth is controlld by 20% of people.

80/20 in parenting

I did not realize that it has been working for me in the relationship with my son untill one day I got its insight. I became aware about its presence and suddenly my approach changed.

Many people worry excessively about the fact that they are not able to spend enough time  with their children and constantly blame themselves as they are not able to  make arrangements for the same from their daily jam-packed schedules. I know mothers who are always at home and with their children, yet not able to create the relationships of mutual understanding with their children! The experience that I had in my life made me understand that it is not over-involvement and continuous attention that helps but creating powerful moments for some period of time that brings the results.

That is in my opinion 80/20 in parenting!

What patterns do you have?

As a parent, if you are constantly striving to help your child do better and anxious to give her more by onverindulging in her life; this may not be an effective strategy!

As my wife and I both are working and spend time away from our son, we do sometimes get the same thoughts popping in our mind; and the condioned-self of mine creates blame and makes me reconsider my life priorities. I know that my son tops the list of priorities in my life, still the pattern of worrying sometimes throws blame on you and perpetuate ineffective parenting patterns as you interact not from the position of love but from fearn, anxiety and apprehension.

An awareness can change your patterns

The awareness that I got on that day helped me feel better and hterafter, I have also started becoming more effective in dealing with my son.

I relaized that I had believed in my unconscious for a long, that a good child rearing can only happen if you spend more time with your child and be around him to support him as soon as he gets into any problem. I was working hard, most of the time, to get things done with him . It did not work out well that way.

The story is like this

My son remained upset and was not in his usual self for few days. I noticed that and it made me upset too. I started getting involved more and more with him to find out what was bothering him. I was anxious and impatient in dealing with him. My belief about spending more time with him in his difficult times made me act impatiently to get him back to his original mood. I was looking for the reasons for his being upset.

I asked him to go for a movie. I also insisted that we should play some board games together. I also said that if he could go to his friend’s place, he would feel better. I was working hard! Really!

After two to three days of hard work from my side with all good intention but coming from the position of anxiety and impatience, I was tired with myself. I put down all the efforts and did not have energy to contiue with anxiety, worries and impatience.

Then things changed

To my surprise, things started changing after that. As I just let the pressure go, I got some intuitive ways of dealing with the situation. I tried one and it worked.

I started reading his storybooks as he was busy playing games on his desktop. I got curious about one of the characters in a story book and asked him what he thought about it. He got interested and sat besides me.

Together, we got involved in the story. After sometime, he came out with the issue that was bothering him!

He was upset because he did not get a chance to play a role in a drama arranged at his school. He ventilated his feelings and felt relieved. He was back to his original self!

My insight

I relaized that there are only some powerful moments that are required for things to get OK. Even in parenting, you don’t need to keep persisting and pushing things hard to get better outcomes. Instead, you need to learn those 20% of interactions that bring the best out of your children.

By identifying those effective ways of getting things done and applying them can create 80% of our desired outcomes. Yes, that’s it! There is no need to get over-involved and keep pushing. Even though you try hard, there are only 20% of your efforts that are going to give you 80% of results.

So, the wisdom lies in finding those 20% efforts to be made. This frees up your mind and time both.

It is not much useful to continue doing same things just to persist and satisfy yourself  that you are working hard; even though you realize that it is not creating much of the results.

20% activities with 80% output in parenting

What are those 20% of activities in parenting that can bring 80% of your outcome. These effrots help in strengthening 80% of our relationship with the child. I have thought of the following:

  • Remaining available, at least any one of the parents, at home when the child return back from school. I think that’s the time when she needs to share her experiences the most.
  • Learn to perceive when he is emotionally charged and show your willingness to help. Pushing hard at this moment, even though your intentions are good, may not help.
  • Playing one outdoor game, at least once a week for 30-40 min with your kid.
  • Remember names of his best friends and talk about them with him.
  • Identify his best game or play activity and get involved. Play together and ask with curiosity to learn from him.
  • If the child loves drawing, getting involved with him in drawing or a craft activity at least once in a week helps in strengthening the bond between children and parents.
  • For an adolescent, spending time in watching a movie of his choice and then talking about each other’s opinions really helps in knowing each other better

This list is not exhaustive. You can creatively and by being receptive to your intuitions find more of these activities.

You are invited to share your opinions and experiences in this matter in the comments section below.

Wishing you a Resourceful Life ahead,
Dr. Sudeep Shroff

4 Responses to Pareto’s Principle: 80/20 applied to Parenting

  1. DR TEJAL February 18, 2011 at 12:02 pm #

    very nice Doctor…….

  2. premal February 18, 2011 at 12:22 pm #

    it’s wonderful article.

  3. sudeepshroff February 20, 2011 at 3:38 pm #

    Thanks. 🙂


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