Emma's child is just over a year old. He is not quite a toddler, but not an infant. He lately has been using slapping as a way to express his emotions. At what point do we nip this in the bud? What do children at this age actually understand? My stance is at this age children are just learning to understand cause and effect. They may not have a complete grasp of the concept (heck, I know adults who STILL don't grasp it) but they know enough to get by. Therefore they are ripe for the beginnings of discipline.
When discipline is mentioned a lot of people, especially when the children are young, get a little overly sensitive. Discipline doesn't have to have a negative connotation. Discipline can be done lovingly. In fact children crave boundaries.
When a child is on the verge of being a toddler the most effective discipline is redirection. An example would be for a mother to catch the child's hand before they smack and saying "No, that hurts", and then redirecting them towards an appropriate activity. One step further is putting the child down in a safe spot and walking away for a few moments. Cause smack, effect mom put me down for a minute. At this age the concept will sink in after a few (maybe a lot) of repetitions.
When the child reaches the age of two a naughty step can become an acceptable form of discipline. I highly recommend this when correctly enforced. Think SupperNanny. A warning, then the naughty step, then they have to explain why they were in time out to you, they need to give some form of apology, and then cuddles. My children came to find that the naughty step could happen anywhere, even in public (you should have seen their faces when they got time out next to the coke machines at the mall). It worked though. I think the key is to be clear, be concise, and be consistent (even I have trouble with consistency though).
At the age of 5 time out no longer worked for LaLa so I have once again changed my tactics. This is a Dr. Phil form of discipline. Now, Dr. Phil as far as I am concerned is full of a lot of bull crap, but this actually works. I found her currency. What item does she crave more than anything else. Once I found that currency I knew that I could use it as leverage. An example of this is "If you don't do A then B will be taken away for an hour/a day/a week/until you earn it back" and it works. Once again be clear, be concise, be consistent.
Now, I am not an expert; I don't claim to be one. I just know what has worked for my family. Let me tell you, the best reward as a parent (next to cuddles and kisses) is having a stranger tell you how well behaved your children are in public. It makes all the hard work worth it, and it is HARD work.