I have a confession: I graduated college a bright-eyed, optimistic liberal, who considered conservative views cruel and downright viscious. Ten years later, I now count myself among conservatives in many issues, and one, by far, is in dealing with teenagers.

Want a conservative educators advice on teenagers? Here you go: Don’t worry so much about students’ self-esteem. Yes, I can hear the protests of bleeding hearts right now, but have been in the trenches first-hand and dealt with thousands of students. A firm hand is far more effective than a limp one in the classroom. That’s not advice, that’s just common sense.

In fact, and I tell this to my students, this liberal overprotectiveness is a bit insulting for them. Quite literally, policy-makers in academia and educational theorists believe children are stupid, like a bunch of Pavlovian zombies. They are not. Children are much tougher and smarter than most people think, and underestimating their abilities to perceive and manipulate the system has led to most of our problems. Our current education system isn’t preparing them for life. It’s preparing them for Candyland.

Parents, teachers and those dealing with kids: When you talk to kids, don’t worry so much about saying things that might hurt their feelings. If they are doing something ridiculous, tell them to “Stop being stupid” (but don’t call them stupid…a big difference). If they cranked out in an essay in minutes, don’t tout the positives of it. Tell them “This is terrible.” That doesn’t mean been cruel to them, but don’t be afraid to teach them a lesson.

Their fragile minds aren’t as fragile as you think and honesty, for good or bad, goes a long way to earning their respect. Just like adults, kids respect an adult that is honest and tells them the truth. They like a straight-shooter.