The Tip That Changed My Parenting: The 80-20 Rule


The Tip That Changed My Parenting: The 80-20 Rule We all try our best to set boundaries and create rules for our children that will (hopefully) make them well-rounded, conscious contributors of society. We want them to grow up to be empathetic, content, and kind. Truly we all are just trying our best to raise kids that turn out to be good people.

But what happens when we let the rules become too much?

If you clicked on this blog post to read about how you can use the Pareto Principle in your parenting, you might be disappointed. The version of the 80-20 rule I’m talking about has little to do with inputs, outputs, or productivity in a business sense. All it entails is this: 80% of the time you hold fast to the rules and 20% of the time you don’t. That’s it. It’s that simple.

I should begin with saying I have toddlers. I am by no means qualified to give advice to anyone with children over the age of four and my 80-20 rule will look a lot different in 10 years than it does right now. I’m sure something we can all agree on is that rules often upset kids. Shoot, I’m an adult and sometimes rules upset me! We ask a lot of our kids, occasionally too much, and it can lead to frustration — both from the kids and on our end as parents.

Enter the 20%.

In my house, 20% of the time the rules are erased. Obviously we still need to keep the kids safe and healthy so not everything can go out the window (and this will look different for every family depending on what you prioritize), but the stuff that kinda-matters-but-kinda-doesn’t is what I’m talking about here. For example, our family travels a lot and all of our travel days are 20% days. Pretzels for breakfast? Sure. Jumping on the couch while we get the car loaded? No biggie. Not taking a nap? It’s fine. Watching tv for seven hours of the day? I don’t care.

20% can save your sanity.

I have expected too much out of my young kids more often than I like to admit. I can get so caught up in my own brain that I forget theirs aren’t even close to being fully developed, and they won’t be for roughly 22-ish more years. Adults are allowed to have bad days, so shouldn’t kids get to have bad days too? Will a few episodes of Paw Patrol really fry my kid’s brain? Will eating snacks for dinner occasionally instead of a hearty and healthy meal really make a difference in their health? Will letting them jump on the bed, have Cheetos for breakfast, or stay up past bedtime scar their development forever? No. It won’t. And I wish I would’ve realized it sooner.

The 80-20 rule has made me a better mom. It’s made me more carefree, reduced the weight I put on myself over raising “good” kids, and allowed me to have a sense of freedom I had otherwise taken away. My kids are happier too, of course. Yes they still know the rules that are always set in stone in our house, but they’ve also learned what a little bit of freedom feels like. I’ve given them the opportunity to explore, to develop on their own terms, to make their own choices, and to simply have fun. 

The 80-20 rule has changed my life. Will you let tomorrow be a 20% day?


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