I love Kelly’s challenge of writing the best parenting advice. I have written so much about parenting, but choosing the top parenting tip is tough!! Here’s what I settled on. See what you think.

#1 tip: Be consistent!!

If you get a new puppy who needs to be house trained, what do you do? You whack him on the nose and talk sternly when he pees on the carpet and you praise him and give him a treat when he goes outside. And I bet you do it EVERY time until he starts to get the hang of it.

What would happen if you gave him a treat sometimes after he peed on the carpet and sometimes after he peed outside? Then you whacked him on the nose sometimes after he did his business outside and sometimes when he did it inside? Of course the poor dog wouldn’t know where to pee.

So we can all agree that consistency is crucial in teaching pets and people how to behave.

If I got a speeding ticket EVERY time my speedometer went over the limit, I would quickly learn to stay under the speed limit. However, it only happens once every few years so I push it when I’m running late for Family Fued on TV. If my son lost an hour of TV time every time I had to re-ask him to clean his room, he would quickly learn to clean that room on the first cue.

The difficulty we fall into is that we’re human! Some days I’m exhausted and can’t even utter, “Clean your room.” Some days I’m dealing with PMS and his BREATHING sounds disrespectful. Some days I get 13 compliments on my hair, so I’m on cloud 9 and more than happy to clean the room FOR him!

So, consistency is something we understand in our heads, but have a hard time carrying out in the real world. How can we improve?

First, it’s important to understand the importance of consistency and try to make it a priority, even when you don’t feel like it.

Another idea some of my colleagues use is to create a list of family rules. This makes it very clear to everyone what the rules are and gives you the opportunity to pre-plan the consequences. Some of my rules would include: be respectful of others, no name-calling, and follow directions.

My preplanned consequences would include asking forgiveness, helping the person wronged, and loss of privileges (things that are very important to the child.)

If someone has broken a house rule, and I’m too tired to get off the couch, I may wait until the child comes to me. (They always do, because they need food and money.) And then I will calmly explain what the transgression was and the resultant consequence. So, I’m able to be consistent even if I have to go back later and say, “Hey…you did this wrong and here is the result.” Older kids can make the connection between the behavior and consequence even when some time has passed. The very young ones (people AND puppies) need the consequence immediately to make that connection.

Of course we all know raising kids is complex and requires MUCH, MUCH more than merely consistency. But, if we can get pretty good at consistency, we’ll have dogs who go outside to pee and kids who know the rules. Then we can move on to the next great parenting tip!