(This is the 2nd in a series on discipline.)
That's it. Sounds easy, but it's not. The earlier in life your children learn that you absolutely, positively, ALWAYS, 100% of them time MEAN WHAT YOU SAY, the earlier they learn to discipline themselves. WHY? Because you have taught them that the consequences to breaking rules are ALWAYS THE WORSE CHOICE.
Scenario 1: Toddler cries in church. Parent gets up and takes said toddler to nursery. Toddler is now happy. Parent attempts to return with said toddler, toddler resumes crying. This happens week after week until after a few weeks the toddler stops crying as soon as the parent stands up. Eventually the child is just taken straight to the nursery at the beginning and left for the duration. Why? Because who in their right mind WANTS to do something NOT FUN when there is the option of doing something FUN? Really? Wouldn't you, responsible adult that you are, rather sleep in, call in sick to work, and spend the day goofing off? But you don't. WHY? Because losing your job, your house, your car, and possibly your relationships are NOT WORTH the trade off. Hence, you act responsibly.
The core problem is parents think they are being cruel if they don't do what it takes to make their child happy. But by giving in to the instant gratification, by making them happy in the moment instead of teaching them to discipline themselves, you are setting them up for a lifetime of expecting society to cater to their every whim.
Solution. Toddler cries. Parent checks all responsible reasons why child could be crying. Once determined that the child is just "unhappy", parent takes child out to the hallway and makes being in the hallway more unpleasant than sitting still. (It truly does not matter HOW you accomplish this task, so long as you accomplish it EACH and EVERY time the child cries until the crying stops.) Child learns that sitting still and being quiet are preferable to what is going on in the hallway. By the way, you are NOT being cruel to your children by expecting them to learn how to be still and be quiet.
Scenario 2: Pre-teen smarts off when told to do something. Parent responds with
1)"Don't make me come over there and whop you!",
2) "Your father is going to hear about this!",
3) "Did you HEAR me? Don't make, me say it again!",
4) "One, Two, Two-and-a-half, . . . , or
5) "I've already told you three times, now MIND ME!"
Believe it or not, if you are experiencing this one from a child of ANY age, your child is SCREAMING for boundaries. BEGGING you in his or her own way to MAKE THEM MIND YOU. They WANT you to be the parent. They NEED you to be the adult. They need limitations for their own sense of security.
Solution: The very second your child shows disrespect to you, deal with it. NOT publicly. I am completely against humiliating kids, regardless of their age. Embarrassing your children will only cause resentment. Get somewhere private, even if it means you simply whisper in their ear, and you give them whatever is appropriate. And it needs to be big. AGAIN, YOU HAVE TO MAKE BEING DISRESPECTFUL MUCH MORE COSTLY THAN BEING RESPECTFUL. I'm a big fan of long-time groundings from their favorite toys and activities. (But again, you have to be consistent. If you say "NO iPod", that means "NO iPod". None. At all. Don't make an exception for ONE SINGLE MINUTE.) Oh, and NEVER, EVER repeat yourself if you were heard the first time. If you have to call a child, or warn a child more than once, you are not being consistent. In fact, if a child is breaking a rule he/she already knows, don't even give a warning, just go straight to the discipline.
When my oldest was 12 or so, I grounded her on several occasions from watching tv. But after a day or two I would give in because: her dad worked nights, her brother was little, and I hated to watch movies by myself. After a couple of times giving in and "lifting the tv ban", she started to work the system. I realized I was either going to have to BE CONSISTENT or find a different disciplinary route. (In this case, I chose the latter because I didn't trust myself to be consistent on this one.)
However, when my younger one broke a certain rule, he was grounded from Facebook for 2 weeks. He was warned that if he broke this particular rule again, he would lose Facebook for a year. After 5 months passed, he broke the rule again. He lost Facebook privileges for 12 full months. That was 3 years ago. He has, at least to my knowledge, never broken that rule again.
The principle is the same, regardless of your child's age. Make the negative action more costly than the positive one, and don't waver. Ever.