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It sounds like your lecture and corner time with your youngest did the trick in stopping her arguing/attitude and that's what truly matters. Where I agree, she probably expressed some frustration on "mean old mom" to her friend after they left, I've long come to accept the children will feel that way often enough. And in a sense, I am just fine with being "Mean Mom". In a way, it means I am doing my job.
Where of course we don't go out of our way to be mean, it's better to be mean than trying to always be their friend and being too agreeable (too lenient). It's our job to be their mother, not their friend!
You asked if I was more lenient on spanking warnings when my children were older and when they had friends present. I think you have probably seen me mention more than once that I never hesitated to spank my children in front of others when they felt the need to act up in front of them.
'Others' could mean anyone whom was visiting. Family (including extended family), close friends of the family and also their friends and even siblings friends. Unless I didn't know the person well, there really wasn't an exceptions on whom they could be spanked in front of if they felt the need to go far enough to misbehave to earn a spanking with company present. And there was no age limit in regards to that, as well.
So as you can imagine, as I had no hesitation on spanking in front of others if their behavior called for it, threatening a spanking (or swatting) with people present, their friends included, was something I did not hesitate on doing, either. And it was something I did quite a number of times with my children even in their late teens.
I gave a spanking warning, and some swats, to my youngest last year, but fortunately for her it was done when we were at home and no one else was around.