To be sure, with each new developmental stage, parenting (and disciplining) a toddler feels most like being out at sea, never quite sure exactly which direction you should be heading in next.
Look up toddler discipline, and you'll get all sorts of directions. Brazelton has his way. Sears has his. There are time outs (which I honestly can't imagine for this age). There are "secret" methods. But all agree that consistency is key.
My approach, before I had kids and before my kid was a toddler, was simple. It involved a two-pronged attack of Redirection and Choosing Your Battles.
But, as my son tries harder and harder to gain independence, he has stopped listening. He has started testing limits. And I have started raising my voice and not wanting to get up 50 times to redirect (both of which I am working on).
With potentially dangerous and gross things like toilets and the fireplace, I've tried smacking hands or his butt. With the hands, he is completely unphased. And he is fascinated by his butt, so he thinks it's funny and when I say "I'm gonna spank your butt" he puts his butt out, pats it and says "butt". Which I think is funny.
I am learning right along with him. I try out one tack to see what works and even though I am supposed to speak with some sort of authority, some days I feel completely at a loss for what to do next - totally in the middle of the ocean.
How about you? What do you do?