For the past month or so my go-to response for discipline is to threaten spanking because, well, it works. It works quickly and quietly with no argument. Situations basically go like this: DD and DS1 are running around screaming. I ask them nicely to please stop. They continue. I ask them more pointedly to stop and drop the please. I tell them loudly to stop. Then I yell "Stop it now or you'll get a spankin'!!!" Running and yelling stop immediately.
....OK, I'll be honest. It started that way. Now I pretty much just jump straight to the spanking threat esp as it gets to the end of the day and I'm worn out. And its for basically everything. DD isn't picking up like I asked her to, threaten a spanking and she moves. Arguing, back talk, fighting, yelling, running, throwing....whatever behavior I want changed.
I need a new line. I don't like throwing that out there all the time but I really don't know what else to do. Part of the problem is that I'm burnt out and, like I said, it works. I need to recharge. But I also need some for of discipline that's going to work and not include threats of physical punishment.
FTR-I have yet to actually spank after I threaten it. I don't actually want to spank my kids, I don't think its a good form of discipline. So if I need to remind DD again to pick up I generally say something like "You remember what's going to happen if you don't get to picking up, right? Move it along now!" and that's the end of it. But again, its just a continued threat and I don't like it. I'm not at all proud of the parent I've been lately.
Hugs, Mama! You have a full, busy house - I can understand you feeling burned out and overwhelmed. I applaud you for trying to find a different style.
As you already know, the trouble with threats is that you have to be willing to follow through. So you either need to come up with a threat that you are willing to carry out, or come up with a different tactic. You want your kids to do the right thing because it's the right thing to do - not because they fear punishment.
So help them understand why it's important for them to listen to you when you tell them to stop yelling and screaming (you need to answer the phone, the baby is trying to sleep, you need some peace and quiet!). Sit down with them and brainstorm - have them come up with reasons for your requests (someone might trip over toys on the floor). I think if they understand more clearly why they need to do something, they will be more likely to cooperate.
Try to always phrase things as "Do" statements instead of "Don't". "Stand still" or "STOP!" is more effective than "No more running!", because it tells them what to do instead of what not to do. Tell a kid "Don't jump on the bed" and all they seem to hear is "...jump on the bed ... jump on the bed". They honestly can't think of an alternative on their own, so they keep doing it.
Since the goal is to teach them what TO do instead of what NOT to do (that follows naturally), be sure to acknowledge appropriate behavior - "catch them being good". If you tend to collapse on the couch because they're playing quietly together, and don't really notice them until they start to squabble, they might not quite get that playing quietly is a really good thing.
Now you say "You know what happens if you don't pick up?" Since you don't want to actually spank, consider what really would happen if they didn't pick up toys - perhaps you would have to help, or do it for them (because toys all over the floor is a safety hazard, you can't just leave them on the floor). That takes time - and now you don't have time to take them to the library, or bake cookies, or play a game with them. Encourage them to do things, not because "I said so", but because you are all part of a family team, and working together makes life more pleasant! Help them think of examples of ways adults work together.
All of the things I suggested carry over to older children (my sons are 17 years old, and it still works). Have age-appropriate expectations; show appreciation for what they do right; don't make any threats you aren't willing to carry out.
If you say "We can't go somewhere until the toys are picked up", and it takes 2 hours to pick up toys, you don't go on the outing - a logical consequence. Someone throws a toy - the toy gets taken away. You don't have to get mad; you just take it away. Keep modelling and shaping appropriate behavior.
It takes time, and it takes effort, but the long-term rewards are well worth it. The biggest benefit for you - by the time your baby is a year old, you'll be good at these techniques, and you'll never threaten to spank her!
If the chips are down, the buffalo is empty.
When she was younger we would count (often yelling), "1, 2, 3..." for her to stop the behavior. We usually only got to "2" because she knew if we got to "3" she was going straight to time out.