There are so many factors that affect our kids these days: poverty, single parents, broken families, learning disabilities, behavior problems in the classroom... the list could go on and on. Over 40% of US children live in a low-income family, and over 20% of US children live at or below the poverty line.

As someone who was born and raised in the South (which is also the region with the highest poverty rates), I feel like I have seen and heard it all. Even though my family is considered upper-middle class, I still attended public school, and the majority of my high school consisted of students from the inner-city. There was a fight at least once a week, drug searches every month or so, lockdowns due to gun threats, and behavior problems that just never seemed to go away.

This scared me, and I believe it affected my education.

I've been out of the public school system for almost four years, and I can see things getting worse and worse. I see poor behavior management in elementary school classrooms today, and it breaks my heart that this is how we are raising our future leaders.

Instead of asking them how they feel or digging to the root of a problem, I've seen teachers belittle kids for not acting like tiny, perfect robots. I've seen kids so incredibly discouraged by teachers, it makes them cry.

Children are designed to be wiggly and to want to have fun with everything they do, not to quietly sit at a desk for eight hours a day, five days a week.

Yes, our education system has an incredibly rigorous set of requirements teachers need to meet in order to best prepare their students for state testing at the end of every year, and this can have some impact, but it shouldn't affect how we personally treat our students.

By doing this, we are teaching our future leaders that it is okay to treat others with disrespect when they don't do what we want them to do. We are also teaching them that going to school is supposed to make them feel bad and to discourage them from being the best they can be.

And, in turn, this affects their education. From the statistic above, one in five children lives in poverty. Stereotypically, they may not have a parent who is there to support them when they get home, cook a hot meal every night for dinner, or have someone to tuck them into bed at night.

This is why we need to build our kids up and not tear them down. If we tell them how brave, smart, and kind they are, they will eventually learn to believe it about themselves. Thus, giving them the confidence they can achieve anything if they put their mind to it.

So, to all the future teachers, principals, school nurses, and SLPs, let's change how we treat our kids. Let's treat them with love, kindness, respect, and a little bit of tough love every once in a while.