So here's what has helped me:
1. Come up with a routine. This way you have a plan for the day, your goals are set beforehand and ensures you have stuff to do to keep junior busy.
2. Be flexible with the routine. If your child is sick or grumpy, everything changes. Adjust your schedule as needed: extra time outside, extra nap, no errands today....a happy kid is a happy mommy.
3. Don't give in to tantrums. While it's easier to just say "I'll give you whatever you want," it'll backfire later. Kids need to be taught what's acceptable and they need boundaries. And yes it's okay to let things slide sometimes, but don't make it the norm.
4. Come up with a discipline plan. Whether your child is two or twelve, you will need to have some kind of a strategy to teach them how to correct their behavior. Remember to adjust it for EACH child's needs and their different ages. What works for one kid won't always work for your other kids.
5. Remember that discipline isn't punishment, it's teaching. While punishment is part of teaching, it isn't all of it.
6. Be consistent with your spouse and communicate. Talk about your views on timeouts vs. spankings, how much TV time is allowed, etc. Try your best to be a team, not good cop bad cop. Create a list of family rules together.
7. Use plenty of positive reinforcement. Behavior charts to earn rewards, getting a treat at the end of a shopping trip, getting a sticker for going potty, high fives, praise, calls to brag to grandma, are all fun ways to celebrate your child's good choices.
8. Change the way you speak. This was a BIG one when I taught. In your directions, tell them what to do, instead of what NOT to do. Instead of "Stop playing with your food" say, "You can get up when you eat your lunch." Instead of "Don't throw your toys," say "Be gentle when you put your toys in the baskets."
9. Give choices. Then FOLLOW THROUGH with what your child chooses. This teaches them that their choices come with good or bad consequences. H enjoys being able to choose from two choices when picking out movies, shirts, meals, etc. This carries over well into times when he's throwing tantrums--for example, today I let him out of the stroller at the aquarium and all he wanted to do was push it into people. When I told him to stop he screamed and cried. I told him, "You may not push the stroller. You can sit in the stroller or you can walk around and look at the fish." Not all tantrums end as peacefully as that one did, but even if he continued to melt down on the floor, I would have chosen for him--the stroller--and then given him another choice if he continued to cry--"You can sit here and have a snack or we can go leave and go home." Just a word of warning--Don't threaten going home unless you mean it!
10. When you want to be left alone, engage your children in activities first. How many times have you told junior to find something to do and it led to more pestering and whining? Sometimes I need to get work done, but H wants to play. Many times if I just sit down with him and get him started doing a craft, reading stories or building a Lego tower, I can get back to what I was doing without the whining because he's engaged in the activity.
Wait...I have one more!!
11. Enjoy teaching your children. Take time to do something fun with your child: take them to the aquarium to tell them the names of sea creatures, go to the park and show them how to go down the slide, have them help you do the laundry by pushing the basket around and handing you clothes.