What age is deemed appropriate when it comes to disciplining a child (toddlers included)?
Discipline should start as early as 8 months. This can be a simple "no" for example when the baby plays with the remote control. However, the baby should also be praised if he obeys the instructions.
Are there any benefits to using physical punishment (caning or a smack on the bottom/Palm) on a child? What about parents who incorporate this punishment at an early age?
Whether physical punishment is appropriate boils down to the cultural background and values of the family. Most western studies have shown that physical punishment is detrimental to the child. I would suggest minimising using physical punishments as parents may then only focus on punishment and not on teaching or educating the child. Nevertheless, physical punishment, when incorporated with consistency and non punitively, can be a quick and effective way of disciplining the child.
What consequences might a child have if he is reprimanded or caned at an early age?
Could this lead to a more disciplined child? Or might it have possible negative effects?
As mentioned above, it depends largely of the punishment is meted out appropriately. A parent must never can or hit the child out of frustration. The punishment must be predetermined and meted out consistently, and proportionate to the age of the child and the bad behavior. A good amount of teaching and education must follow suit. If so, the child understand why he is punished and learn from it leading to better discipline.
At what age would physical punishment (caning or a smack on the bottom/palm) be deemed ok for a child? Why?
Physical punishment, if at all used, should only be used when the child can understand the correlation between his actions and consequences. This would be at the earliest 3-4 year old.
What is the best way to properly discipline a child?
A positive approach is often best. Therefore encouraging good behaviour with use of techniques such as star chart / reward chart will be desirable. Using methods such as time out when a child is throwing tantrum or misbehaving is also useful.
Most importantly, it is most important to be consistent and firm in disciplining the child. Do not be punitive and do not shame the child.