Using Pens (When Pencils are Needed)

Hello to all of you!  Today, I want to focus on course corrections as a parent.  There are times when all of us “mess up” for some reason or another.  Maybe we were too hard on our kids when they needed a gentler hand.  Perhaps, we were too easy on them before and now they are misbehaving in the same way again.  Parenting isn’t an exact science for any of us.

When we write with a pen, it’s permanent.  The ink can be smeared but for the most part, once it’s on the paper, there’s no getting it off.  I like to practice what I call “pencil parenting.”  This means what I am writing may stay on the paper (figuratively speaking) but if I don’t like the result, I can erase it all and start again.  There are numerous examples of how I’ve seen this work but let me give you one example of each.

(Pen Parenting)  My oldest child has been getting a bit too excited at school.  I gave him a warning that if he continued to mess up, there would be consequences.  To my chagrin, his teacher emailed me a week later asking me to give my boy “a talk.”  This, of course, didn’t sit well with me.  My child received the “daddy wrath” if you know what I mean.  A small part of his consequence was that he was to miss soccer practice due to his behavior.

What I had forgotten though was that his great grandmother had come in from Florida and was staying at his grandparent’s house.  My wife was scheduled to take him over there after soccer practice.  I decided not to let him go.  Some may think I was too harsh while others would cheer me for getting my point across.  Whether you agree with me or not isn’t the point.  The point is I made my decision (with a pen) and nothing was going to change my mind.

Pen parenting isn’t good all the time because it assumes you are always right.  There’s also some arrogance involved especially if your spouse/partner has a different opinion.  For the record, my wife fully supported my decision with our oldest child.  Regardless, I do find myself questioning the decision occasionally.

Here’s an example of pencil parenting.  One morning, I was working with my youngest child on his reading.  Unfortunately, things weren’t going well.  I was stupefied by some of the mistakes he was making. He was also getting frustrated.  Eventually, we closed the book and worked on reclaiming our sanity.

Later, I talked to my wife about what happened. She brought up something so obvious, I felt like an idiot after we finished talking.  In essence, she asked why I hadn’t switched to another subject when the reading lesson wasn’t going well.  It was then I realized that my frustrations had blocked rational judgment.  My wife’s point made perfect sense.

The next day, instead of bringing out one book, I laid out different learning materials.  My youngest child was so intrigued; he focused on his reading just to see my other goodies.  Every day since, I lay out different materials during school time.  If one lesson doesn’t go well, I simply switch to another.  It’s worked like a charm.

Pencil parenting requires skills such as observation, humility, and reflection.  I am not a perfect parent by any means.  But, I have had my share of success stories with children. I believe part of the reason is because I can course correct when what I am doing isn’t working.

What I’d like you to think about today is whether you parent with a pen or a pencil.  Can you come up with some examples to validate your point?  Would your spouse/child share your opinion?

All my best and I’ll have another post ready on Friday.  Please feel free to pass this around to other parents if you liked today’s topic!


  1. Summer says:

    I found you at “Frugality is Free’s” Wednesday hop. I LOVE this post. I have a 9 year old son and my husband and I have a 20-month old and a 2-month old. My husband definitely uses pen parenting with my son and I try to use pencil. It’s hard being a blended family and seeing him parent my son that way. Any tips on how to get him to be a little more gentle?

    I’m going to follow your blog now, I love it!

  2. Paula says:

    I love this idea! Pen vs pencil parenting! So clever and yet so simple. I've felt that way before… that I've said something and now I had to stick with it…kind of like I was stuck with my decision, even though it wasn't the best decision. I will definitely work on my parenting… and writing with pencil!! :)

  3. So happy to see that you stopped by 3decades3kids. Your words were very kind :) Passing by your blog and loving your message!

  4. Thanks for stopping by my blog earlier. Being the visual thinker that I am, I love how clearly you make your point in this post. I think I’m one of those erasable pens that were popular in the 80’s. I try to think about decisions, because my kids need a pen. If I get all pencily on them, they get confused. But.. I have had to go back and erase sometimes. The problem with those pens though.. there was always a shadow. They never really erased all the way.

  5. Great post…and boy, can I relate! The pen/pencil analogy really works for me.

  6. Very nice analogy, thanks for sharing your experience. Also, Thanks for stopping by and linking up at I'm following you on all the networks. Have a great weekend!