Tag Archives: habit

80/20 Thanks Mr Pareto

80% of the time I remind my daughter about 20% of the things she does. 20% of her leisure activities take up 80% of her time. The 20% of things she does well are ignored 80% of the time. So where am I going with these observations?

To the 80/20 rule. Otherwise known as the Pareto Principle, named after an Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto who formed this idea in 1906. He was originally talking about the fact that 80% of income in Italy was received by 20% of the population. Since then, the Pareto Principle has become the general observation that 80% of your outcomes come from 20% of your inputs.

For example, 80% of the time I wear 20% of my clothes, those three favourite shirts, shorts and same pair of shoes. The other 80% of my clothes remain in the wardrobe, waiting to see the light of the day because they are specialist clothes like a dress suite or clothes that I shouldn’t have bought in the first place. And once I’ve got these clothes on, 80% of my time at work is taken by 20% of my tasks. I think you get the picture.

Back to the reminding (or moaning she would say), especially on a Saturday. My daughter makes her own breakfast each morning. No matter how many times I tell her, “Not too much milk,” she tips the milk carton too high and too fast. Milk gushes out, and her breakfast cereal swims in a deep white lake. Then there’s the juice. “Not too much.” A tall glass is filled to the brim, only for most of it to emptied down the sink. The milk from the cereal goes the same way, and I’m left a little frustrated by the waste.

If I analyse this in the 80/20 rule, I can hear 80% of my conversations over the same 20% of things she does each time this occurs. She doesn’t mean to be heavy handed with the cartons; she cannot judge when to stop pouring as quickly as me, and so she lingers too long before she stops the flow of the milk. With the juice, no matter how many times I tell her to choose a smaller glass, she doesn’t. This small problem of judgement due to her additional needs causes me to moan at her too much. The solution, me to accept that this is only one small area of her challenges, and stop her feeling that I spend 80% of my time nagging her – as I’m sure she thinks I do.

And then after she’s finished breakfast, am I to spend more time nagging her for watching the same 20% of informative (or not so) YouTube videos? I could think that this 80% of her leisure time wasted is no different to the way us ‘adults’ waste time on Facebook or Twitter or channel of choice. Perhaps I should be more grateful that she does spend 20% of her leisure time on the Kindle with Jacquelin Wilson filling her mind with stories.

This love of reading, along with all the other things she does well – like getting dressed in the morning, showering, making her own breakfast, getting her schoolbag ready, crossing most of the roads on her own, doing her homework when she comes back from school, changing her bedding at the weekends – these all are a part of the 80% of things she does that I only acknowledge and praise her for 20% of the time. Those 20% of things she doesn’t do so well, I dwell on 80% of the time.

break bad habits, build good habits - motivational reminder on colorful sticky notes - self-development conceptThe answer then, for me, should be to not speak too quickly. Remember that her additional needs probably account for way less than 20% of who she is. She struggles with maybe 20% of those life skills tasks that leads to greater independence, but which may be 80% of the restriction to her living independently right now. But if I recognise that this 20% of things she needs real help with should have 80% of my devoted energy, when I’m calm, logical and patient, then I would be benefitting her more. Who cares if the milk is wasted? What my daughter needs is my thoughts and strategies on just a dozen or so things that could make her independent.

Holiday Take-Homes



Shake things upHolidays are a good time to shake it up. Normal routine is out. Normal sleeping is out. Normal food is out. So with all this disruption, when could be a better time to jolt our children to greater independence? You take more of a holiday. Let them work.

You deserve a rest. You have more time because, presumably, you’re relaxing as a family. So don’t hurry. You don’t have anywhere to be. Use the time as a slow opportunity to solve ongoing problems/issues that you don’t always have time to address. Start the day by letting them get their own breakfast.

We first did this a while back now with our daughter at the buffet breakfast area of the hotel in which we were staying. She enjoyed the adventure. First the juice – bring it back to the table. Next the cereal – back to table. Eggs and toast – table. Then pastries. We did, breakfast pastrieshowever, quickly realise we didn’t just need to show her how to get breakfast, we needed to also teach her restraint and healthy eating. We aimed for a reasonably healthy breakfast, whereas without guidance she went for the less healthy more sugar option.

After a week of this, when we came home we tried letting her make her own breakfast. We put the cereal out, and a bowl and spoon. Except for school days she has always got up before anyone in the house. So when we came down on weekends we found the scattered remains of breakfast. Bowl on the table, the dirty spoon next to it. Crumbs on the bench and a puddle of milk next to that. We realised then this was going to take a little practice and patience.

We also did some practical things to help her: we bought a small carton of milk. She was still a junior school then, and so a large carton of milk was too heavy for her to control as she poured. This is probably the way to go for all children without a lot of core strength, or even having a pre-poured small jug of milk left in the fridge with just the right amount in.

Another thing we perfected while on holiday was getting dressed. There’s ample time and plenty of opportunities as we change from clothes to swimming trunks and back again. It’s also a chance to teach modesty if your child is not as aware as you would like them to be.

Maybe if you’re camping there’s a chance to learn to ride a bike. Balance issues is often a challenge for children with additional needs. I, or should I say my daughter and I because it was a marathon for her too, spent many hours teaching her to ride. Follow the link for our download explaining the steps we went through to solve this. Learning to ride sometimes takes time and perseverance.

On holiday are other skills older children/young adults can develop too. Going to reception if you’re in a hotel and asking for more towels for example. I think that hotels are a relatively safe environment to let my children wander to experience being away from us alone, but that is your call. Independence can’t happen without us letting go to some degree.

If that’s a bit more than what you feel they are ready for, going across to the café for a cold drink while under your watchful eye from the pool might not be. This could be their chance to stroll , get distracted, take forever so whatever they’re buying for you is cold by the time they arrive back – perhaps it’s better to ask for juice rather than coffee.

But seriously though, holidays are a good time to practice independence skills. You aren’t in a rush. Sometimes we do more than we should, and on holiday could be a good testing ground to see what we can stop doing for them, because we aren’t trying to get out of the door by 3 minutes past 8. The benefits of them developing greater independence skills are for the whole family. Other children won’t feel a sibling is being given more attention. You will have more time.  Your child will feel just that little bit more independent, more grown up. In Breaking Bad Habits I talked about the habit loop. We all get stuck in our habit loops, so let’s use holidays as a chance to break some of them. Good luck!

To easy the stress of the travel, Vicki in this week’s podcast Happy Holidays gives useful suggestions on how to cope.  Vicki is a travel consultant, as well as a mother to a child with additional needs.