Child discipline in a time warp

WHEN I was a kid, if you were caught with an index finger lodged up your nostril or making farting noises with your armpit when company was in the house, it was considered completely normal to have a size 10 shoe thrown at you from clear across the room.

As long as no one used a rocket-propelled grenade to discipline their children nothing much was ever said.

All I had to do was look at my mother the wrong way and she was waving a wooden spoon in front of my face like it was a Star Wars laser and promising, "Be warned, the force is with me and I'm not afraid to use it".

There were no arguments (maybe a few dashes for safety), but no arguments. She meant business and we knew it.

Fast forward a few decades and kids still pick their noses and make fake farting noises with gusto, but the whole corporal punishment thing is now totally frowned upon.

Try waving a weapon in front of a kid these days and they'll start quoting you their rights. A simple maths formula they can't remember but the entire Geneva Convention they can quote verbatim.

Typical. Just when I get to be the mother of two young teens I'm not allowed to slap them around.

A shame really. Because if ever I've been tempted to smack 'em up a bit it's been lately.

In the old days it was easy. Lost your temper? You got a smack. Lost your bike? Two smacks. Lost your sister at the showground? You couldn't sit down for a week.

Nowadays it's all so confusing. Should late home from school be a telling-off or an early-to-bed? Is being cheeky and talking back a loss of computer hours or is that the punishment reserved for bad language and trashing school shoes?

The other day my youngest was caught doing something she shouldn't have been. No surprises there. I won't bore you with the details but it did involve bright orange nail polish and soft furnishings - again.

"Right that's it, you're grounded for two nights," I said randomly selecting a punishment I thought suited the crime.

"Two nights? That's so not fair, last time it was just one night."

"Okay, you want fair? Let's try for double or nothing?"

Now that my little darlings are teenagers I've found a new form of punishment.

I know just the threat of walking around the shops with me on a busy Saturday morning - when we're sure to bump into some of their little friends and I'm sure to make some embarrassing and loud remarks - puts them in a total tailspin.

For all their bravado another punishment neither of my them likes is the "go to your room until I tell you it's time to come out".

I think it has something to do with once where I sent my eldest to his room in the morning.

Later, when we all sat down to dinner and his chair was empty, it dawned on me I may have forgotten something.

Mind you, with my family, it's not easy keeping track of who is on what punishment and for how long.

Last week my youngest wasn't allowed to go on any sleepovers but she still had phone privileges, my eldest could use the Xbox but not the computer and was still allowed to go on the school excursion if he cleaned out the garage and as for hubby, well after my eldest cleaned out the garage and found a stash of unexplained brand new power tools, hubby's been banned from the hardware store until 2014.

Family Taming is a weekly humour column by Wendy Andrews.

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