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09th Oct 2023

Reese Witherspoon opens up on the struggles of parenting and admits to being a ‘tough parent’

Reese Witherspoon has gotten candid about her parenting style.

The actress shares two children, Ava, 24, and Deacon, 19, with her ex-husband Ryan Phillippe, as well as a son, Tennessee, 11, with her ex-husband, Jim Toth.

While appearing on the Good Inside with Dr. Becky podcast, she admitted she is a ‘tough parent’ and detailed some of the ways she struggles being a mum to her children.

Confessing that she sometimes finds it hard to know when she should subject and shield her children from failure.

“I see this a lot with parents – I don’t know when we stopped letting our kids fail. Like I learned so much from the paper I didn’t turn in or the demerits I got, so I got detention. I was suspended from school when I was in fifth grade for talking in class and being disruptive. And writing creative notes and passing them to my friends,” the Legally Blonde actress said.


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“And my parents didn’t say, ‘Uh, she didn’t deserve that.’ And take me out of school. They actually let me sit in it, and feel uncomfortable. So I think, learning from failure is actually a valuable tool that you can’t take away from kids, right? You rob them if you don’t let them sit in the discomfort of the experience.”

Witherspoon has employed the ‘tough parenting’ style and referred to an incident with her daughter Ava when she was in third grade as an example.

At the time, Ava had returned home from her last basketball game of the season, devastated she had not scored any baskets for her team.

This prompted her mother to say to her: “Yeah, I know. I know, that probably feels really bad. You know what also, maybe you’re not good at basketball?”

“[Ava] was like ‘What? Can you tell me I’m not good at something?'” Witherspoon recounted.


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Speaking on the conversation in present day, The Morning Show actress says while it was difficult, she believes its just as important to learn what you’re not good at.

This, for Witherspoon, also applies to other areas of parenting, such as self-expression, identity, and creativity.

She admits that she struggles to let go of control and intervention.

“It was really hard for me as a parent. Watching my kids go into a place like not controlling how they look and what they wear. ‘Cause I wanted to do that so badly. I was just like, ‘No, no, no. If you just wear this outfit, it’s cute… And then no one will judge you. And you’ll just fit in.'”

“But I actually thought, ‘I am wronging them of learning those lessons?’ First of all, self-expression. Creativity. And, you know, who you are in the world in a group. How do you assimilate? How do you stand out? Which one are you? If I dressed you and told you how to be, like literally sometimes just telling kids what to wear can cripple them later in life,” she admits.

The Big Little Lies star says, however, that being a working parents has allowed her to learn to relinquish some of her control and thinking that only she knows what’s right as a parent.

“I had to learn to let go ‘cause I’m a working mom. I had to learn, I had to reframe my thinking, like ‘Oh no, they’re not going to be OK ‘cause I’m not there. I’m not the one putting on the soccer cleats and I’m not the one putting the bow in the hair and I’m not the one doing the video camera.’

“And I had to learn, and kind of re-frame it that, ‘Oh my kids are learning to be adaptable to other parenting styles. And other people who have authority who are older or younger or grew up in a different culture. Or they’re actually learning to be a person who gets their needs met with different people and they’re a person that learns to speak up and self-advocate.

“And that moms who think I’m the only one who can do everything…’ and I’m guilty of it too, it can be harmful for kids.”