There is undesirable behavior (food fights, toy chucking, etc.) and there is abusive behavior (biting, kicking, swearing, hitting, spitting, saying hurtful things purposfully, etc.) For the first kind of behavior, numerous approaches can be taken.
The abusive behavior, however, should elicit an immediate, consistent response which is relatively dramatic. In effect, the response sends the message "this is not tolerated here." Consistent means done the same way every time by both parents.
I do very much like 1-2-3 Magic, as noted by CreationEdge. It is my go-to book for disciplining because it works, even on 3 yr. olds. It also minimizes conflict between the parent and child (parents need do nothing but give a warning and count before taking a child to a time-out spot), and bargaining/acting out on the part of the child (parents can ignore this and just keep counting). It may not be clearly understood by the child as a teaching tool, but it is. As the child learns the system, he can decide to stop the behavior that will earn him a time out. Every time he makes that choice, he has chosen, himself, to control his reactions and frustrations. And controlling frustrations is such an important skill to learn.
Please read the book. Start using it when everyone will be home for a few days, so this particularly bothersome activity won't come up right away. When you have clearly set boundaries with your child ("We don't climb up on the kitchen table."), and simple redirection or distraction don't work, the parent says something to the effect of "Dear beloved child, you know you are not supposed to climb on the table. If you don't climb down now, that's a one." (You wait 5 seconds; no other talking). If he continues the behavior, you announce "That's a two." (You wait 5 seconds; no talking, no arguing that it's different now, he's just crawling on it, etc.) On the three ("That's a three: Time Out."), he is removed to a designated time out place where he sits quietly, hopefully thinking if it was worth it. When he's served his time out, a short talk can take place, but it's over. When the parent then might arrive at an "unwanted time", warn the child "Daddy/Mommy will be back soon. Remember to be kind, because it's important to be kind to people, especially those we love." (Or however you want to frame it.)
When he chooses to obey before you reach three, he gets a praise (for behavior he controls) and a sticker. A certain number of stickers gets him a reward or privilege (at three years of age, the reward has to come pretty quickly, but that's discussed in the book). Eventually, the child chooses to give up the undesirable behavior early on more and more often.
The reason I discussed all that is that abusive behavior gets an immediate "That's a three: time out" (preferably by the parent with whom he wants to stay). The child is taken to his time out spot, gets no attention, no play activities, and has himself disrupted the behavior he wanted to continue.
It should go without saying that all children will at one time or another tell a parent that they don't love them, or they're mean, etc. These feelings may be valid, and should be discussed in any trusting relationship. Teaching a wide range of feeling words helps a child discuss disappointments more accurately. But repeated use of hurtful language as a means to an end is not healthy and should be discouraged.
All discipline methods must combine love and cherishing, respect for a child's valid feelings, times for discussing and negotiation of expectations, etc. But once the boundaries are worked out and understood in times of peace, this is an incredibly stress-free way of enforcing those boundaries.
Done well, the child will feel loved and respected, and will learn that his behaviors (good and bad) have consequences. This is real life to me.
1. Praise works in helping to shape behavior, but not all praise has the same effect. Sincere praise for things a child has control over, such as effort, has been shown to be beneficial, whereas praise for that which is uncontrollable (being "smart", pretty, etc.), comparisons, or insincere praise, has been shown to be detrimental to effort and self-esteem in the long run.