Effective Parenting Begins With Love and Respect: How to Apply the 80-20 Rule

(This is the first post in a series on Becoming a Better Parent)

We always want our kids to listen to us and some days could be more frustrating than other days. However, it’s important that our kids see us as parents who love and respect them instead of just disciplining them all the time.

Are your kids not respecting you? Are they not listening to you? What about your teenage son or daughter?

Effective parenting begins with love not discipline. Your children need to see that you absolutely love, support, and respect them.

Sarah Chana Radcliffe, in her book “Raising Your Kids Without Raising Your Voice” discusses the 80-20 rule for effective parenting.

“Simply put, parents’ words and behaviors should feel good to the child 80% of the time… The reason that a 50-50 ratio just won’t do is that negative attention weighs much more than positive attention. One criticism can wipe out 20 pleasant remarks.” [1]

According to Mrs. Radcliffe, research shows that a parent provides positive parenting to their kids only 6% of the time. That means that 96% of the time that a parent is with a child they are, directing, disciplining, yelling, punishing, arguing with their spouse, or screaming and cursing at their hockey team playing on TV.

I have seen the same parents over and over again during car pool and I have to say that for a year I have not seen them smile to their kids or give them hugs when either dropping them off or picking them up from school.

I know these kids. Whenever I see their 5 yr old son, who is in my daughter’s class, he runs over to me and gives me a high five. I have never seen their parents, whether its at car pool time or at the park, smile to their kids, give them hugs, or high fives. Now its possible that they do all this positive parenting at home, but I hear how they talk to their kids also. Its always “get your bag”, “stop doing that”, “come over here right now” and so on. These kids are great. They behave extremely well whenever I see them. It seems to me that the parents are just too mature to get down and give their kids a hug in public.

Also, a lot of bad behavior stems from a child not getting enough love and attention.

Here’s a true story that I have heard second hand about a parent who simply couldn’t connect with her teenage son. This woman approached an advisor at a local private school about her problem. She was telling the advisor that her son leaves the house in the morning and doesn’t come home until night time. He won’t listen to her when she asks him to do anything. He has become rebellious and she just doesn’t know what to do anymore. The advisor asked her how about much affection she shows her son. She responded that she can’t really show him any love because he never listens to her. The advisor told her to do the following: “The next morning before he wakes up, I want you to make him the best breakfast he has ever had. Make him some pancakes, toast, and whatever hot beverage he drinks. Show him that you love him and don’t talk to him about discipline and behavior. Show interest in things he’s interested in.”

Several weeks later the woman came back to the advisor and told him that as a result of following his suggestion the relationship with her son drastically improved. It has never been this wonderful. They have never been this close and many of the problems that she had with her son’s behavior have simply melted away.

How to apply the 80-20 rule

Because there are so many things that a parent must do with their kids throughout the day i.e. get them dressed, give them breakfast, get them to school, homework, dinner, bath, bedtime and everything in between, its quite challenging to apply the 80-20 rule. This could still be done while doing your daily parenting choirs.

Sarah Chana Radcliffe writes how to train yourself to apply this rule:

Here’s the trick to get you started: in the morning, in the hour before the kids leave for school, put 8 pennies and 2 quarters in your right-hand pocket.

Each time you give a positive form of attention, mover one penny to your left-hand pocket. Each time you give a negative form of attention, move one quarter over to your left-hand pocket.

You have 2 quarters, so when you’ve used them up, you must move the remaining pennies before you can give any more negative strokes.

When all the pennies and quarters are in your left pocket move them back to the right – positive stokes move pennies and negative strokes move quarters. You can continue this game when the kids come home from school.

Soon you’ll be an 80-20 expert! [2]

Its crucial to make sure that your children feel loved, appreciated, and respected. A parent needs to get off the discipline train and start showing that they really, truly love their kids.


[1] Radcliffe, Sarah Chana Raise Your Kids Without Raising Your Voice (Toronto: HaperCollins Publishers, 2006), p. 15-16
[2] ibid p.16

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4 Responses

  1. Rad says:

    Very nice post. I think we get caught up in disciplining our children and forgetting to be loving and affetionate or spoiling them rotten with love and forgetting to discipline them. Treat your children with respect and love as if they were real people, because they are. Nice post

  2. Eric says:

    Thank you Rad for the positive feedback.

  3. Pat says:

    Excellent !! really enjoyed it….I wish that I could send this to many parents.

  4. RF says:

    “These kids are great. They behave extremely well whenever I see them.”

    I guess the parents must be doing something right afterall. Kids need discipline & direction. Obviously balance is key. Not sure if I agree with the 80/20 & the 6/96 is ridiculous in addition to poor math.

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