As I watch parents discipline their children, it often appears that their motive for discipline is not purely to help the child. It's easy to fall into a 'response rut' without even realizing it. That can happen with the way you react to your child's misbehavior.
Your motive in discipline will drastically affect your method of discipline. The best motive is to develop your child's character, because good behavior flows from character. This is a long-term strategy that can be harder, but pays big dividends. When you aim for character development, you think differently about child training.
One sure way to check your motive is to consider your feelings:
Be aware of your emotions when your child disobeys. If your primary emotion is surprise, you should ask yourself if you have proper expectations of your child. The fact is, children need discipline because they are immature. That should not surprise you or catch you off guard. Sure, parents would love it if their children always chose to be kind to siblings, or put away their toys the first time the direction is given. But they don't.
Perhaps your feeling of surprise indicates that you need to learn more about your child. The fact that you are surprised might mean your child is acting out of character. Is something going on in his life that has caused a change? What's behind this surprising behavior? Spend some time observing and talking to your child before you decide on a course of action. Proverbs 18:13 says "He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him."
Do you feel embarrassment when your child disobeys? This could be a sign that you are paying too much attention to what others think. Every parent whose child cries in public thinks everyone else is noticing. It's an uncomfortable feeling, but it's universal. Don't let embarrassment dictate the way you approach the problem. You may not be able to use every discipline tool in public that you would at home, but you do have options. Focus on your child and the response you need to provide in order to train character. Proverbs 22:6 says "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." This speaks to character training because that determines the long-term course of your child.
Do you feel anger? This may indicate that your agenda has been interrupted and your own selfishness is motivating your thinking. Anger, and every other emotion, is natural and occurs involuntarily. But as adults we need to recognize and manage our emotions. We need to allow emotions to subside and rational thought to bubble to the surface. This may take some time. James 1:20 says "the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God."
As you learn to consider your own emotions when your child disobeys, you can increase your effectiveness in discipline. And as a bonus, you will model for your child the way to handle emotions maturely.