A day before the new school year started, I overheard two teachers discussing the best way to begin the year. From what I heard of the first one's plans, it sounded like she was going to spend the entire first two days of the term explaining the rules of the classroom and the consequences that would result from following them or breaking them.

"I am going to spend four minutes explaining the rules," said the other, "and then begin the first lesson immediately."

Three weeks later, when I examined the two classes, I found that the teacher who talked less and started teaching straight away was much more successful in disciplining her class. She would consistently reinforce positive behavior with a positive consequence, and negative behavior with a negative consequence. Her students learned appropriate behaviors from her actions.

The first teacher was not consistent in applying her consequences. She kept talking and talking. The children in her class learned very quickly that when they did the wrong thing, the worst consequence that would occur would be another long speech.

I then realized that in this day and age we are overtalking to our children. They are given too many explanations, which leaves them not with a better understanding of their place in the world, but confused and insecure. We often hear parents say, "I told you a thousand times not to fight and you don't listen!" or, "I told you a million times not to exaggerate!" Perhaps that's the problem.

Children feel safe and secure in the presence of a teacher or parent who takes charge and consistently applies the home or class rules. Some of us are naturally better at being consistent than others. We could practice by being consistent with small things and gradually grow towards the bigger issues. It is never too late to begin being consistent with our actions, bearing in mind that one action speaks louder than a thousand words.

Try it — it works!