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What do you think about corporal punishment? Did you experience it as a kid? Do you do it today, to your kids, as an adult? All 50 states allow it by law. After we published and listened again to our most recent episode Mother and Son, we decided to take this In-Studio time to talk about corporal punishment or “spanking”, who among us was spanked as kids, and what we think about it today. We also get around to the United Airlines fiasco.

Join us for In-Studio, when our team gets together in the studios of KQED in San Francisco to talk about our recent episodes, the law in the news and the law in our lives.

  • Brittny Bottorff  Attorney and Chair of LOTL Advisory Board
  • Kirsten Jusewicz-Haidle  LOTL’s Post-Production Editor
  • Nancy Mullane  LOTL’s Executive Producer and Host
  • Osagie Obasogie  Scholar and LOTL Advisory Board Member

Have a story or a question about the law you’d like us to bring to our next In Studio? Send us an email at


Stories we’re talking about…or want to talk about:

For each In-Studio, our team brings stories they want to talk about. This week, we got some, but not to all — all of the links are posted below.

One story that caught our attention since we recorded our In-Studio is one reported by The Epoch Times, who reported the story of a principal’s paddling of a 5 year old boy. Check out the video and write to tell us what you think!


Production Notes

Life of the Law In-Studio: Mother and Son was produced by Nancy Mullane, Life of the Law’s Executive Producer and our Senior Producer, Tony Gannon. Our Post Production Editors are Kirsten Jusewicz-Haidle and Rachael Cain.

We want to thank our Advisory Board Members Brittny Bottorff and Osagie Obasogie for joining us In-Studio.

Our engineer was Katie McMurran of KQED Radio in San Francisco. Music in this episode was composed by Ian Coss.


This episode of Life of the Law was funded in part by donations from our listeners and by grants from the Open Society Foundations, the Law and Society Association, and the National Science Foundation.

© Copyright 2017 Life of the Law. All rights reserved.

  • Ed Sarlls III

    Listening to Mother and Son was difficult. It seemed by the time he was an adolescent the arc of his life was inevitable. Sooner or later, he was going to be in a violent confrontation with someone that would end badly. “Children learn what they live.”

    My wife and I grew up in the south in a time when corporal punishment was “normal” parenting. Our parents grew up when the kids would have to go pick out a willow shoot for a switch. In my day, it was a belt at home or paddle at school. I don’t know that it was directly effective. Eventually other things changed and the situations that caused me to act out went away.

    When we started our family, we decided to use time outs and other non-physically confrontational methods. We felt that it was not productive to teach children not to hit or hurt each other while hitting or hurting them. We also don’t yell, don’t fight, and don’t watch R-rated movies. We didn’t watch PG-13 while our kids were young. I think providing an atmosphere without violence was helpful. While we did have disagreements with our children, and the teen years are difficult at times, we came through it without destructive incidents on either side. I recognize that every child has unique challenges to overcome. We were spectacularly blessed and may have been less successful with different situations. Challenges in the parental relationships and financial stresses can also exacerbate the challenges of parenting. We are hopeful that our children will do an even better job of parenting their families. Continuous improvement is the goal.

    I think most (all?) parents really are making the best choices they know of in parenting their children. When they resort to violent or painful punishments, it’s based on what they know from their childhood or from frustration after trying their preferred methods. The opportunities for improvement of our communities are to help parents skip a generation of pain by leaping forward a generation or two in this process, and to catch youth who have grown up without the best parenting models in time to redirect them to productive futures that are not ruled by violent responses to life challenges.

    While recognizing the need to protect children from injurious punishments, I’m wary of excessive government intrusion into parenting discretion. I think public schools are one common touch point that can be helpful. Observational training for grade school staff can help identify potential issues earlier. Schools can provide information on parenting resources and possibly provide discussion groups for parents to share ideas. Our church also has parenting classes that have been helpful for some parents.

    The common legal intervention would involve CPS or similar organizations, which has a history of creating other issues. Keeping families together is a key to breaking the generational parenting skills trap and helping create future successes. Mass incarceration makes things worse for following generations. For all but the worst offenders, I think providing more resources to help the family stay intact and become successful in a career, financial management, and parenting will be both the most rewarding and most cost effective for taxpayers.

    Thanks for your always thought provoking episodes.

Life of the Law © 2017