Family: Janet Christie’s Mum’s the Word

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Discipline methods to swear by

And I said, what the f***, f***ity, f***ity, f***... ow, what was that for?” says Eldest Child who is telling Middle a story when I give him a nip


“Everyone swears.”

“No, not everyone. And most not as much as you. There are children in the house,” I say, pointing at Youngest Child, who rolls her eyes and mutters. It might be a swear but I’m not opening a second nipping front, it might be against the law.

Is a nip better or worse than a smack, and will it be banned too under the new law against physical chastisement? Best not to find out. I don’t want to wind up in jail because of my children’s potty mouths. I’ll just take her phone off her instead – she hates that. But that doesn’t work on Eldest because he doesn’t have one. Lost it in Spain or somewhere and seems to manage just fine offgrid.

“Do you have to nip me?” says Eldest.

“No. I could smack you instead. You’re an adult now, so you’ve outgrown the smacking ban. There’s no point in threatening to phone Childline any more. Esther Rantzen is dead to you now. Or is it just a straightforward assault to smack your grown up children?”

“How about if I just don’t swear?”


See, a tiny nip has done the trick, and it doesn’t hurt, just irritates. I know it’s still wrong but I was brought up in the smacking years, where people lashed out left, right and centre and the thrills and giggles of dodging your mother’s ineffectual backhanders filled the long evenings of The Winter of Discontent when there was no telly.

“Did I smack you two when you were small?” I ask Middle.

“No. But you did threaten to,” he says.


“It’s all right. You’re from the last century. And we used to wind you up.”

“Would you smack your own children if you had any?” I ask.

“Of course not! Never! What kind of question is that? Are you INSANE?”

“No. I’m just a bit nippy.”