Just so we're clear here as I move on to specifics of discipline, I want to make sure that I don't come off as knowing it all. Our parenting methods have developed over a period of time through trial and error, exhaustive reading and research. We think and talk a lot about things we're doing that either are or aren't working and then tweak them if necessary. These are things that work for us. We use a combination of styles.
I want my kids to be internally motivated. They should not do what's right because they're afraid, but because their hearts and spirit guide them.
Intentional Parenting (for me) starts from birth. I breastfeed, cosleep, babywear, etc. I don't do any supplementation or bottles, so I usually don't leave the baby for more than an hour until they are about 10 months old and on solids. Then the times are limited at 4 hours due to breastfeeding. By keeping the baby with me at pretty much all times, it helps me in truly "knowing" that child. By the time they are one year old, I have a good understanding of their personality. It is much easier to offer the appropriate boundaries for that particular child. It also begins a relationship of trust between the two of us.
One thing we do differently than many other families is that we don't have a strict schedule. Since we homeschool, we don't have to, haha. The kids go to bed anywhere from 9-11pm depending on what kind of day we had and what we're doing. Dave and I are able to fit bonding time for ourselves while the kids are around. We don't look at them as an inconvenience, they are part of our existence. Sure, it's nice to get them into bed and have things be quiet sometimes, but on a normal basis, we love having them just be with us. That factor alone makes it easy to see warning signs of undesirable behavior and cut it off before it becomes a habit.
Some things we discourage or don't allow in our home:
Nagging or Begging
Loud, out of control playing in the house
Physical play that can hurt one another
Hitting, biting, yelling at one another
Dirty or nasty looks
Excluding each other from play
Ganging up on one another
Violating someone else's space or play just to be annoying
We are firm with the rules and boundaries we've set up. The kids will try frequently to see if that boundary is still there, and it's important it is. By setting the rules early and firmly, we have much less parenting issues now that the kids are a little older. They understand what is expected and do their best to comply.
Let's talk about specifics:
I would say the best tool I have in my own arsenal is "the look". It's the one that says "don't make me come over there". When I start using it when they're babies, I have to back it up with action. As they get older, it just takes a "look" at them and they will usually backtrack whatever behavior I didn't like. They're smart little things.
We use light and playful words for much of the behavior we dislike. For example: a "loon" is when they're loud and crazy. "Hyena" is when they're out of control...it's an escalation of loony. It makes the point without ever calling them a bad behavior. The kids think it's funny, but they also get the connotation.
We don't personalize actions. They are not "bad", they are not "crazy" or "rude". They are just using those behaviors. Not personalizing the actions too much helps with them not internalizing or labeling themselves...such as "I am strong willed" or "I am manipulative". This is incredibly important to me. I grew up feeling I was "stubborn" "strong willed" "defiant" "not sweet or giving". I don't think my parents ever intended to make me feel that way, but their words did. I grew up being adversarially parented and I don't want that for my kids or me as a parent.
We give a warning or two, but not more. If they keep acting like loons or are disrespectful they can "take a break" in their room. If they hurt each other or were very rude, we decide when they get to come out. If they are just emotional and having trouble controlling themselves, then they can decide when they're done. "Taking a break" is very important. This works well even as a parent when things escalate too much and I'm having trouble staying in control. I "take breaks" when I need to and the kids see that. It's a good way to help them regulate their own behaviors.
The other thing that works for older kids is "losing a privilege". For us, this is computer, leapster, tv or playing with friends. Those things are not rights, they are earned privileges.
When they are very small (1 or 2) making them sit on the floor right where the action happened is effective. If they get up, I will sit them back down. Making eye contact while I speak to them is important, it shows I'm serious, and that I still love them at the same time.
We try hard to be respectful to the kids. However, we don't have different rules for different days. Being tired, hungry or sick does not excuse garbage behavior. While I try to keep things as positive as possible, I have no qualms about stopping their bodies or raising my voice to stop something from escalating. I talk to them about being respectful and polite and obedient; about not whining, demanding, interrupting or being generally annoying. While I am okay with not having immediate response to my directions, I am not okay with being ignored.
Here are some books that I really like:
"Boundaries with Kids" - Awesome book with focus on final outcomes
"Biblical Parenting" - This is grace-based discipline with real life application. Fabulous!
"1-2-3 Magic" - Great book for getting down the basics of boundaries with simple, easy to use tools - A starting point, not a finished product toward a good relationship with your kids
"Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline"
I hope this has been helpful to someone. I would love to hear of different positive and non-punitive tools that work well for your family too.