Live On, Red Pen

Sarah - Chattanooga, Tennessee
Entered on April 6, 2008
Age Group: Under 18

As I read an article in the Chattanooga Times Free Press questioning whether children benefit from false praises, I thought about how my peers and I were raised. Although it was not too long ago that I was in elementary school, parents and teachers now are facing much different challenges as to how to raise children. Many adults believe that young children should grow up in an environment that will foster self confidence. This idea has gone so far that some people believe even grading students’ work with a red pen will harm their self esteem, especially in their younger years, or elementary school.

As I have grown up, my teachers as well as my parents have rarely thought about my self esteem being damaged because they did their job and reprimanded me accordingly. Although I do not believe excessive punishment or exaggerated criticism is necessary, I believe that it is an adult’s responsibility to prepare a child for the real world. When children become adults, their bosses or supervisors will not praise them for trying their hardest. The boss will want perfection, and even when that is achieved, the boss will not give excessive praise. Artificial praise, although it may help very young children with challenges such as learning to walk, hinders a child’s ability to grow and strive to become better. When people become so worried about fostering a strong environment for children that even a pen becomes offensive, how can a child accept criticism and learn from it?

My family is sort of blunt and doesn’t beat around the bush; it’s not that we aren’t caring, I have just grown accustomed to being told very forwardly about my mistakes. This has been the case all my life and I am a stronger person than I would be if I had been babied through all of my struggles. When I was learning to write, my handwriting was very poor and I wasn’t on par with the rest of the students. My parents did not praise me because I was trying hard; they told me I was writing wrong and that I needed to change. Along with that, they actively worked with me to better my writing skills- not that my handwriting today doesn’t still look like a kindergartener’s. However, my self-confidence was never damaged and now I am just fine.

I was raised not in an artificial atmosphere of self confidence, but in an atmosphere where I was pushed to develop confidence on my own. We all need praise for great accomplishments, but there is a time for everything. Children who rely on praise, whether it is after losing sports game or failing a test, can’t live independently or learn for themselves. So I say, live on red pen, I hope many more papers are graded with your bright ink.