We try to be quite consistent with our parenting. The kids do a lot better when they know what we expect and know what consequences will be if they misbehave. I have found the big issues are sometimes easiest to deal with. There is need for a definite consequence, it usually needs to be handled right away, and it is usually not to hard too figure out what that consequence will be.
What was a struggle for me for quite awhile was the "little" things. Things like whining, scowling, not following or ignoring instructions, things that didn't make me drop everything I was doing to handle the problem but made me start repeating myself: "Don't whine.", "Did you hear me?", etc. I also noticed that these were the things that started getting me frustrated to where one time I would not give any consequences and then all of the sudden I was fed up and gave a big one. Not very consistent.
So, here is what I came up with for some of those "little" things. The Magnet.
I took a recipe card, wrote each kid's name on the card, and, drew a line across the middle. I then cut small pieces of magnet off of a craft strip of sticky magnets and stuck it on the back of each card so the card would stick to the fridge. Next, I let the kids choose a special shapes from their little foam sticker collection. (The number can depend on the maturity of your children.) I also stuck little pieces of sticky magnets on the back of the foam stickers. The sticker magnets would then be able to stick to the fridge over the card.
Here's how it works. When something goes on that is not a character trait I want my children to have, but really doesn't require a big consequence, I tell them that they have lost a magnet. They then go over to the fridge and move a magnet under the line. If they don't do this, or do it with a poor attitude, I inform them that they have just lost 2 magnets, which can turn in to 3, etc. When they run out of magnets, they have earned a consequence. Sometimes this is no desert, sometimes it's time in their room - it really depends on what their magnets were being dropped for. At the end of the day, all of their magnets are reset.
I feel that this allows me to be consistent to where the kids know what they are doing isn't appropriate, it gives them chances to revise their behavior, and it allows me to give a significant consequence for a "little" thing to help them learn while remaining consistent in how I react.
Here is one of my favorite verses for parenting. A lot of times it is quoted to the children, but I think that if it was studied by parents more (including myself), children wouldn't have such a hard time with the first part of it.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. "Honor your father and mother"—which is the first commandment with a promise— "that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth." Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:1-5
I'd love to hear some of the things you do to keep your parenting sanity. :)