Discipline is a part of parenting. Whether you are a Christian or an atheist, you need to teach your children how to behave. Very few parents ignore discipline completely (if they did, I would not want to be in the same state as their children!). But the constant questions are "how do we discipline," "what do we discipline," and "why do we discipline?"
These three questions can be found in the Bible. Proverbs clearly tells parents that discipline is essential in raising children. The famous saying "spare the rod, spoil the child" comes from the Proverb verses referring to "beating children with a rod" to "save their life." This is extreme, obviously, but it has truth in it. Parents sometimes need to be a little harsh and punish their children. It cannot be all positive discipline. Positive discipline has its part, but so does negative discipline. Proverbs teaches tons of things about responsible behavior, and makes it clear that irresponsible behavior has consequences (the consequences are usually vague, but clearly they are implied to be bad). It is the parent's responsibility to give consequences to their children so that they will learn how to behave. A child's behavior is different from an adult's behavior, but they a child's behavior will become an adult's behavior. We discipline so that our children will grow to be followers of rules. God has rules for us to follow as Christians, so its important we learn how to follow rules. Discipline also teaches that children need to respect their parents as authority figures. Parents know what is best, and children need to follow their parents rules and commands because it will help them. So that is why we discipline.
What do we discipline? Parents all have their own rules. Don't do this, don't do that. These are good rules. The simpler the rule, the easier it is for the child to follow. And it is important to have reasons for the rule. For example, I tell my kids that they need to obey me because the Bible says honor your parent. I tell them that they need to be nice to each other because the Bible says to love your neighbor as yourself. I don't have a list of rules, but I have general rules. I discipline for things like disobedience (I tell them to do something and they don't do it, or I tell them not to do something and they do it), disrespect (talking back, using bad words, being mean to each other), and sins like stealing, etc. I think parents should know what is good and bad and communicate this to their kids through their discipline.
How do we discipline? Parents each have their own methods. Most methods work, some more than others. And a lot of times it depends on the family. One type of punishment may work for one family and not for others. In my house, the consequence for misbehavior is a spanking. The reason I chose spanking is because I believe that Proverbs, when it refers to using the rod of discipline, implies that physical punishment is the most emphatic and effective form, and will deter behavior and teach obedience. Now, I chose not to use a rod for disciplining my children, but the concept is the same. I know parents who use rods like a wooden spoon, a paddle, a switch, or other things. I just use the good old hand to the bottom. A spanking in my house is not a simple swift swat to the bottom. I have a procedure for administering a spanking that makes it effective, safe, and memorable. When one of my children earn a spanking, I call them over to me and communicate that they have disobeyed me and are going to receive a spanking as a consequence. I then find a spot where I can sit down, such as a chair, a couch, or a bed. I have a quick talk about what they did wrong and why it was wrong. Then I have them bend over my lap, with their legs on one side, their head and arms on the other side, and their bottom in the middle of my lap forming the target. I administer the spanking with the palm of my hand, just hard swats to the bottom, the number of swats equalling their age. So when Sasha or Paige get spanked they receive 10 swats with my hand. This seems like a lot but it is over pretty quickly. After I spank them I let them up and I talk to them about the spanking and why it had to happen. I use this opportunity to let them know that I forgive them and that God forgives us for sinning. If they did something wrong to their sister, I have them apologize. This type of discipline has been very effective in my home. I'm old fashioned, I know. But there is nothing more effective than a good old fashioned over the knee spanking, I've found. I tried time-outs and taking toys away, which can work, but generally my kids respond better to spanking.
As for positive discipline, it is important as well. Positive discipline is simply rewarding good behavior (rather than punishing bad behavior). This can be very encouraging. If my kids do something unexpected and nice, I tell them I am proud of them. I think the mentality of love is nurtured rather than natural. So if we show our kids we love them and we let them know they need to love other people, when they do, we need to say "I am proud of you for doing that." This will tell them that they did something good and gained favor for it. Gaining favor is underrated. Everyone likes it when people like them or like what they did. I'm not saying as parents we should go out of our way to make a big deal out of every good deed. But we need to let our children know when they do a good deed to encourage them to do more and copy the behavior. But we cannot forget to punish bad deeds. I've found there are two motivating factors with my kids. One is the encouraging words of their mother as they do something good, the other is the firm guidance of their mother's hand on their bottom when they do something bad. Its important to have both encouragement and punishment, as both work to shape our children to become good children and later good adults.