Reese Witherspoon gets personal about the challenges she has faced in parenthood.
During a Good Inside with Dr. Becky podcast, the esteemed Legally Blonde actress and devoted mother of three expressed her thoughts on both exposing and safeguarding her children from the experience of failure and life in general.
“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.” Witherspoon shared. “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.”
“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.”
The 47-year-old actress an film producer shares a 24-year-old daughter and 19-year-old son with her ex-husband Ryan Phillippe. She also has an 11-year-old son with ex-husband Jim Toth.
When Witherspoon’s daughter, Ava, was in the third grade, she came home devastated from her last basketball game of the season because she had not scored any baskets. Witherspoon recalls telling her daughter, “Yeah, I know. I know, that probably feels really bad. You know that also, maybe you’re just not good at basketball?”
Witherspoon shared of her daughter’s reaction. “[Ava] was like ‘What? Can you tell me I’m not good at something?'”
“It’s actually really important to learn what you’re not good at,” she says before continuing.
“It was really hard for me as a parent. Watching my kids go into a place like – this sounds so odd, but I’m sure you’ve heard this before – 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,” Witherspoon admits.
“I think the hard part too, as a parent is, age-appropriate failure. So we are supposed to intervene when… their little hands can’t cut correctly. We’re supposed to help them with motor skills, right? So intervening with certain things at [a] young age, is different,” the actress added.
Witherspoon also shared that as a working mother, she had to learn to let go of some of her control as a parent.
“The other thing I think moms get stuck in sometimes, maybe I’m generalizing, but I hope maybe this resonates, that we’re the only one that knows the right thing to do for the kid.”
“It get’s a little – 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.”
What are your thoughts on Witherspoon’s approaches to raising her kids?