It depends largely on how you define the term "punishment." Kids NEED to be allowed to make mistakes and suffer the consequences so they will learn. They need to be told no sometimes. At the same time, "punishment" in the traditional sense does not always have the intended effect.
Kids generally want to be good and do the right thing AT FIRST. However, they are also curious and naive about things and need your guidance to stay out of trouble. They are also inherently selfish/self centered and particularly at certain ages and stages.
You can greatly minimize your need to use punishments and increase the likelihood your child will look to you for guidance (even in their teen years) by staying connected to your kids through quality time, mutual respect through offering age-appropriate choices and responsibility and LISTENING, LISTENING, LISTENING. It is also extremely important to give your child a sense of value in the family by asking them to contribute as soon as they are able.
I hardly ever needed punishing as a child because my Dad and I have always been close. He is a really good listener and since he only had girls and I was the oldest, I often had the chores helping him the boys would normally have done (chopping fire wood, fixing fences, laying concrete, mowing the lawn, etc.) It meant I had that sense of value and he and I had a lot of time to talk even through our hard work and sweat (can you tell I had a fairly rural up-bringing?)
I have found that in general, the same is true of my daughter. Of course there have been times she has need redirecting, correction or support while she suffered the consequences of a choice, but generally I don't need to do A LOT of correcting and usually what is needed is pretty mild. Most kids will try lying ONCE or TWICE, they will test the boundaries (and, I haven't hit puberty with her yet, which may change my answer), but the resources on the matter, I've relied on and would recommend are:
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families by Stephen R. Covey and its companion The Seven Habits of Happy Kids by Sean Covey.
This book outlines seven habits that are pretty well established as effective techniques in running a family full of kids that are considerate, self monitoring and respectful while also being critical thinkers. It discusses the value of things like family meetings, quality time and even having a family mission statement and how to make these things work in a variety of families, settings and situations. The one for kids helps with stories you can use with elementary school-aged kids to aid them in learning the seven habits for themselves.
How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk This book discusses the pitfalls of too much praise, how to use non-evaluative statements, how to correct or critique constructively instead of deconstructively and yes, how to actually listen to your kids (somewhat).
Parenting with Love and Logic - Yes it is about giving choices to your children. It will talk all about why this is important in terms of both their development and esteem, as well as just helpful to you. No it is not about manipulation, it is about empowerment for you and your children. A choice of action a or a spanking would NOT be advocated in the book, both options are supposed to be equally valid options for both parents and child.
Aesop's Fables - yes, this includes things like, "The Crow and the Pitcher," "Androcles and the Lion," and "the Tortoise and the Hare." But is still full of wisdom presented in stories your kids will enjoy hearing you read to them and nuggets you may find helpful in guiding you as a parent too. Of course, I also use a lot of Bible stories with mine too.
Finally, I have not read Positive Discipline and it sounds as though it may conflict slightly with the other books I have listed here, but only slightly. It SOUNDS like it really goes over helping your kids feel a sense of self worth and how to let natural consequences help in teaching them the lessons they need to learn. @Christine Gordon recommends it frequently, and based on what I have read from her on this site, it is probably a resource you may find exceedingly helpful. I hope to read it myself soon.
Start with the SEVEN HABITS if you can only get one of these books now. MOST of them are old enough you should be able to get them from your public library in the US too.