As our flight touched down in Barcelona in June, my eight-year-old must have been mildly bothering me. It was nothing serious - just enough to make me want to distract her in a light-hearted way.

"Be careful," I said jokingly.

"We're in Spain now and you're allowed to hit children here."

It was such a non-PC threat but we were in a foreign country and all bets were off.


I'm not even sure what the actual rules in Catalonia are about corporal punishment towards one's own children but I didn't let that get in the way of a good story.

While hitting children is clearly not okay, perversely the moment it was outlawed I felt kind of cheated that it was officially out of our potential repertoire. Suddenly our lawful weaponry consisted of little more than bribes and threats.

Supernanny's 'naughty step' technique used to come in handy. When our girl was a preschooler I would occasionally banish her to another room (after a warning), count the appropriate unit of time (one minute per year of age) then retrieve her following an apology (from her) and a hug.

It was quick, no nonsense - and, importantly, it got her out of my hair while she was being especially annoying.

I don't think the naughty room cuts it now she's eight. I'm sure there are more age-appropriate punishments out there. I just need to think of them.

I've read about parents who take everything out of their child's bedroom and make them earn back their possessions with good behaviour but that sounds way too labour intensive.

The naughty room is still the source of much hilarity for us when her father is off his game.

We crow: "Ah, that's forty-seven-minutes in the naughty room for him. Poor Daddy."


And if disciplining your own offspring is a nightmare, imagine the diplomacy required in disciplining someone else's child.

My first taste of this came when my daughter was in Year One. I was driving her and her friend home for a play-date when I suddenly became aware that all was not serene in the backseat; the two girls were bashing each other over the head with their navy blue school hats.

This was uncharted territory for me. I swiftly pulled the car over and confiscated the hats. But it opened up that whole conundrum: how exactly do you deal with other people's children?

Christos Tsiolkas' novel The Slap demonstrated how not to. You don't slap them, okay?

Having said that, there's not a lot of guidance available as to what exactly you should do.

I've come to the conclusion, and the mothers I know seem to concur, that the parent who's supervising at the time gets to decide what behaviour is okay.

In our household children take shoes off inside, sit down while eating and don't stand on the furniture. While I've never had to use formal discipline to have these rules adhered to, I have occasionally said: "Oh no, dear, we don't do that sort of thing here."

It's a cringe-worthy and unimaginative statement but, hey, I'm just making it up as I go along.