“A little progress every day adds up to big results”

It doesn’t matter whether you are the CEO of a multi-national company, the manager of a successful sports team or just a parent trying their best with a child, the above quote applies to you.

Of course, it’s easy to become obsessed with instant results when it comes to your little bundle of joy, but that’s not how life or parenting works. As every father and mother knows, sometimes parenting isn’t easy and the results don’t turn out quite as you had hoped.

For example, there are occasions when your child won’t want to spend time with you or emotionally connect on any level. For some parents, the answer here is to become frustrated and angry at themselves or the child, but there is another way; simply focus on progress, rather than instant results. Here is what I mean

80/20 rule

Many leading economists and business people swear by a principle called the ‘80/20 rule’, also known as the ‘Pareto principle’. Pareto observed that in Italy 80% of the wealth belonged to 20% of the population. This principle is more of a guide, but you get the point. A small proportion of what you put in determines to a large extent the result.

As few examples,

20% of the workers produce 80% of the result

20% of the customers create 80% of the revenue

20% of the bad drivers cause 80% of the crashes

The basic tenant is that 20% of the input creates 80% of the result. So, ‘How does this apply to parenting?’ I hear you ask. The answer is simple; 20% of the time when your child misbehaves will cause you 80% of your frustration. Is this not empowering? All you have to do is identify which 20% of behaviours drive you bonkers, make a plan to intervene and you will remove 80% of your frustration. Talk about bang for your buck!

So instead of becoming annoyed at your child during those moments when they frustrate (and every parent alive knows that there are many of those little moments!), know that this too shall pass and the next time be prepared for it.

This principle works on the reverse as well, that means 20% of good behaviour will give you 80% of your happiness as a parent. Focus on the good stuff, note them down, have a journal detailing those times when you really connect with your child. Better yet, note down of the things that do or say that throw you into fits of laughter or make you swallow a smile because you know it is inappropriate yet hilariously funny.

This ‘precious memories vault’ will be your secret weapon. A place where you can draw strength during the tough times. It is a reminder that this too shall past and that there are more joys to look forwards to.

Parenting and business

Most parents look at parenting as a charitable endeavour with no pay out at the end. In my opinion this is completely erroneous. The world’s most successful businesses all have one thing in common, they have systems. These systems are the foundation upon which empires are built.

So if sophisticated businesses have systems, is there any reason you as a parent should be flying by the seat of your pants?

When I first thought of this concept, it made sense. Just think about it. If you have a job, how you feel within your job is related to how robust the systems are and how much it caters for your personality (if you are in a dead end job or feel that you are in a dead end job then just ignore the previous sentence).

Just like employees that are highly productive and happy in their workplace perform better, so too can you have children who are highly engaged and happy at home. How does this happen? If you said ‘systems’ you’ve got it.

Applying business principle to parenting will give you a new lease on life. Having a system in place means you have a operational guide on how to deal with situations when they occur, what your minimum acceptable behaviour is and how to provide feedback to the child in a way that is condusive to learning and performance rather than simply hope for the best.

Do you need an MBA to parent? Heck no, but it pays to have structured thinking, pre-empt meltdowns, decide before hand on how you want to raise your child and have it in writing. Ok, yes the last part sounds weird but don’t judge something you haven’t tried.

Why do you think the popular parenting authors have worksheets and activity trackers?

Oh and to bring the 80/20 principle in, you only need to spend 20% of your time planning these things out and the 80% of results that you want will sort themselves out. There are 365 days in a year, 20% of that is 1 month. Now I wouldn’t dare suggest that you take 1 whole month to plan your parenting strategy, but what if you took 7 days (it doesn’t even have to be 7 continuous days). How many problems could you anticipate and stop before they even occur?


Applying this to the above example where the child doesn’t want to spend time with their father or mother is easy.

If a child seems distant, a parent who is results focussed will become agitated and try to push their way into the child’s life at every available opportunity. This is only going to make things worse and the little boy or girl will push their parents further away.

Thus, both sides will be unhappy and that’s something nobody wants.

However, the progress focussed parent will take their time, find a period where they can connect with their child and concentrate on making the best of that moment.

They will let their child know what is bothering them at a time which suits both parties, rather than just them. This will lead to a happier parent and a more conscientious child because children (inquisitive as they are) mimic the parents behaviour.

This means if you are progress focused and your child gets rewarded for doing things approximately right, they are going to do more of it and increase the chances of them getting it almost right. Continue in this direction and eventually they will get it just the way you want it.

Now isn’t that sneaky? Getting what you want without focusing on what you want.


Reframe failure. 20% of activities give 80% of the results. This means that your child can literally ‘fail’ at 80% of the stuff and do plainly illogical and down right mind numbing stuff 80% of the day and it wouldn’t matter!

Doesn’t that give you a sense of relief? They don’t have to be perfect, they don’t have to be doing amazing work all day. Just 20% of the time.

That means 2 hours out of a 10 hours day or 4 x 30 minutes of moving in the right direction of the behaviour that you want.

You see how liberating this is?

What’s next?

Be more vigilant and figure out what your most productive 20% is, because the 80/20 rule can work in a negative way too.

For instance, if a child misbehaves 20% of the time, they may get what they want 80% of the time because of this. Think about it, if a little boy or girl knows that acting bold will get what they want, it will be their ‘go-to’ reaction when they want something.

To avoid this reaction, you’ll become much more aware of not giving in at the crucial moments. Your child will find that they need to invest a proportionally larger amount of time and effort to get something and they will change tact.

Make your life easy by getting ready to bear the brunt of bad behaviour without cracking. IT will be hard, it will be trying but this too shall pass and when it does, you’ll be glad that you didn’t unconsciously train them to become the ‘whinger’ or the ‘tantrum thrower’.

Every parent’s 20% are unique, pay attention and you just might find the rough edges your child has been having may just be diamonds in the making.


HB is a roller coaster father, one minute he is ecstatic about his children, the next he wonders if life will ever get any better. A long standing member of the 'I yell at my kids' club, he writes with passion and an analytical mind. Dissecting and separating the nuanced strategies that make a good parent great. He experiments with parenting techniques on his 3 year old so you don't have to.

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