How do I teach discipline? It depends on the child and the circumstances. I'm a firm believer in expectations being the result. Children will do what you EXPECT them to do if you give them the means and knowledge to accomplish it. Why? Because it's in their nature and the natural consequences are more easily learned than punishments.
Now this doesn't mean that you can just EXPECT your children to behave like angels and have it be so! You teach them to follow expectations when they are little by allowing them to experience natural consequences. When you put a toy into a baby's hand and they drop it the toy disappears. That's a natural consequence. If you replace it before that baby realizes it's gone you may have eliminated the fussing to have it back but you've also eliminated the natural consequence. So give it a minute for your baby to realize it's gone, comment on the toy having fallen, and return it to within reach. Pretty simple right? Use the same concept as they grow.
A 2 year old who refuses to eat his meal will be hungry. There's no need to punish him or fight over food. If he doesn't eat he's hungry. Just don't undermine that natural consequence by offering different selections or giving snacks between meals.
She doesn't want to put her shoes on? Then she can't go out. Argued for 20 minutes about putting on shoes? Sorry, you missed the playground, it's time for lunch now. Didn't like your drink so you threw the cup? Here's a washcloth, let's clean it up together. Sorry, no, we won't be refilling it. Stuck a whole roll of stamps all over the wall? Wow, that will take you a long time to clean them all off! Best get started or you might miss snack time. You don't want to clean the stamps off the wall? Ok, mommy will do it but that means I don't have time to make a snack and you'll have to sit here and watch so you don't get into mischief.
Back to the expectations. This has a lot to do with YOUR actions and example. If you tell your child it's time to go then stand there watching him to see if he's going your WORDS say it's time to go but YOUR ACTIONS say he has options. You've just said with your actions that you do NOT expect him to follow you. If you say it's time to go and WALK OUT THE DOOR your actions say that you EXPECT him to also walk out the door... now... not in a few minutes.
Don't give options (or the appearance of options) if there are none. If you MUST go RIGHT NOW then do not ask your child if he wants to go. Tell him it's time to go. Don't ask him to please put on his shoes. Tell him it's time to put your shoes on. There will be plenty of more appropriate times to give them options and learn decision making. You can even provide some options that go with it without compromising your need for immediate action. It's time to eat now, would you like to sit in this chair or that one? It's time to put your shoes on, would you like to wear the pink sneakers or the blue ones? The time is not negotiable, the details are. EXPECT your child to comply immediately.
1-2-3 - I've heard so much about this book and all I have to say about this method is WHY would you teach your child that they have 3 chances to NOT listen before you expect them to actually comply? For those who will surely message me that it 'works wonders for us!' .... how many times have your kids actually counted it TO YOU? This is not cute... it's disrespectful and says your authority doesn't mean anything unless you say 3. And then requires you to punish them in some way. When your pre-schooler runs out in the road those '3 chances' could be 2 chances too many when you say STOP!
Some natural consequences of course you want to avoid. The natural consequences of running out in the road is not one any parent wants their child to experience! That will be the next topic.