Fans know her as the pint-sized Southern actress with a flair for both comedy and drama, but at home, Reese Witherspoon is just ‘Mom’ to her three kids, Ava Phillippe (19), Deacon Phillippe (15), and Tennessee Toth (six).
First becoming a parent in her early 20s, Reese has had nearly two decades to become an expert in the art of motherhood and has learned some valuable lessons along the way.
The way Reese raises her family is a blend of her intelligent, caring nature and her Southern roots that emphasize values like manners, respect, responsibility, and a sense of community in children. She’s still navigating the odyssey that is raising little humans and has settled on a few parenting techniques that may seem unconventional by traditional Hollywood standards.
An Oscar-winning actress, Reese has had to balance being a mom with being a movie star, which has made the parenting thing a lot more complicated. She’s also not afraid to be honest about how tough being a parent can be sometimes, and also how rewarding it is when children grow into people their mom can be proud of.
Check out these 20 unconventional (by Hollywood standards) ways Reese Witherspoon raises her family.
20 She Won’t Sugarcoat Anything For Her Kids
It’s easy to give into the temptation of sugarcoating things for your children. Who likes to upset their kids with the truth, right? Reese Witherspoon might not like giving her kids the cold, hard facts of life, but she thinks it’s a better approach than lying to them. Disappointment is part of life, so she doesn’t believe sugarcoating does them any favors.
“I feel like I’m constantly counteracting pressure from the parents who want to make the lives of their kids golden and magical at all moments!” the actress said. “Guess what, kids? You’re going to be disappointed and uncomfortable once in a while.”
19 Or For Other Parents
Reese isn’t just against sugarcoating for her kids. Some parents take to social media to make raising children look effortless and glamorous, but not Reese. When it comes to giving other parents the truth about what it’s like to be a mom, she never holds back.
“I was 23 [when I became a mother],” she said (via Huffington Post). “I didn’t know what I was doing. I was young. It was [surprising]. When people ask, ‘When’s the best time to get pregnant?’ I say, ‘Pick the best day for when your entire life is gonna change.’ There’s no good time to have your world turned upside down.”
18 Kids Are Allowed To Be Imperfect
Reese doesn’t hide the truth from her kids, but she also doesn’t judge them for having flaws and not being perfect. USA Today reported that on one occasion, Reese gave it to her daughter straight when it became obvious that she didn’t have the basketball skills she wanted.
“I said, ‘Aves, maybe you’re bad at basketball.’ She thought that was mean,” Reese explained (via USA Today). “I said, ‘Mean or true? ‘Cause, guess what? Your mom’s bad at basketball, too.’” Although her kids come from a high-profile background, she allows them to be bad at things and doesn’t put a load of pressure on them to be perfect.
17 She Communicates With Her Kids On Social Media
As far as keeping up with the times goes, Reese isn’t like a regular mom; she’s a cool mom. She communicates with her kids on social media, according to Brit Co. With social media being a major part of the lives of most young people today, parents who can keep up with what’s in do have more opportunity to relate to their kids.
And she doesn’t just use platforms like Snapchat and IG to chat with her kids; she also uses them to have a joke with them and make them laugh. “I communicate with them in funny ways,” she said (via Brit Co). “I send them weird Snapchats of me doing old man voices and goofy teeth.”
16 And Sends Them Pictures To Freak Them Out
Reese certainly has a sense of humor, and now that her two older kids, Ava and Deacon, are approaching adulthood, she has moments where she treats them like friends rather than her children. She explained that she likes to share strange images that she finds online with her kids, just to get a reaction out of them.
“I like to haunt [Deacon] during the day, so I’ll send him pictures of [strange] animals and be like, ‘I’m feeling this today,’” she said. “And I’ll put #mondayfeels or something like that … I just try to gross him out.” We can't lie; we'd like to be on the receiving end of those snaps, too!
15 As They’re Growing Up, She’s Becoming Less Strict
Even the strictest parents tend to ease off as their kids grow up and crave the space to make their own mistakes and decisions. Now that Ava and Deacon are getting older, Reese is becoming less strict as her relationship with them changes.
“I guess I’m kind of strict about stuff, but it’s funny, once you start to have teenagers, and they become more adult, and you have these relationships that emerge with them,” the actress explained. “My daughter said the other day, ‘It’s like we look like Dad, but we got our weirdness from you.’” We'd disagree on the looks part, but as far as the Reese weirdness, we love it!
14 She Uses Southern Parenting Techniques
Hailing from New Orleans, Louisiana, and growing up in Nashville, Tennessee, Reese was raised according to Southern traditions. And naturally, she is passing those onto her kids. “When I get really mad, I get really Southern,” she told Conan O’Brien in an interview (via Brit Co).
“I’ll give you a ‘sit-to’ which just means you have to sit down and listen to what I have to say. If you really make me mad, then I give you ‘what for’, which is a whole other thing you don’t want to get involved in … My daughter says the other day—she’s born in California, but she said, ‘And I gave that person a sit-to, and I told them what-for.’ It’s seeping in, I’m so excited!”
13 Her Kids Must Respect Their Elders
Respect for elders is a huge part of Southern tradition, and many kids raised in the South are brought up to always use manners regardless of whom they’re talking to, but to especially use manners with people who are older than them. And Reese is no different. Today she tries to find the balance between the way she was raised and modern Los Angeles decorum when it comes to raising her kids.
“We’d say things like ‘yes, ma’am’ and ‘no, sir’ to adults,” she said (via People). But kids in Los Angeles don’t do that. I’ve drawn the line at my children calling adults by their first names. I tell them they can call people ‘Miss Shannon’ or ‘Miss Heather’ but that using only first names is too familiar. Maybe I’m just old-fashioned.”
12 And Her Kids Have Chores, Even In Hollywood
There’s nothing strange about kids have chores in a regular setting, but in Hollywood, it’s probably a lot rarer. But being from the South and raised with such strong traditions, Reese never lets her kids get away with missing out on their chores.
People reports that it’s up to Ava and Deacon to set the table every night so they can enjoy dinner as a family. Reese also asks that her children attend church services with her so she can instill a “real sense of community” into them since that’s what she grew up with in Nashville. We know a few Hollywood kids that could benefit from a bit of grounding, so we get this one.
11 But She’s About Structure, Not Discipline
Though she’s strict in some ways, Reese insists that she’s much more about structure than discipline and never embarrasses her children in front of their peers just to teach them a lesson. Instead, she tries to guide them along the right path so they know when they’re making mistakes.
Her kids are still allowed to have fun and have the odd treat, as long as they can tell their right from wrong, and as long as they have a sense of routine. “We just want to know when we’ve done something right or wrong,” the star explained (via People). “That’s what I’m trying to teach my own children.”
10 Learning Is A Two-Way Street In Reese’s Household
Usually, parents teach their children about the world. But in an IG message that Reese shared for her two songs on National Sons Day, she revealed that it’s her children who actually teach her lessons. As much as she teaches them things they need to know for life, they pass on information to her too about their passions and interests.
“How could I not shout out these 2 guys who fill my life with laughter, sports equipment, & amazing music?!” Reese shared. “Guys, you have taught me so much … Because of you, I can name about 17 players in the #NFL and around 6 #FIFAplayers, too!”
9 And Her Kids Teach Her To Let Go Of Bad Habits
Reese’s kids have also taught her to let go of her bad habits. By nature, she’s extremely driven and ambitious, and in the past, that has made her a tad competitive. But having kids has put things into perspective for her, and now she doesn’t allow herself to get caught up in trivial things that would have once upset her.
“Having kids made me clearer about who I was as a woman,” she said (via Huffington Post).“I just wanted to exhibit good qualities for my daughter. I was a little competitive before I had kids—probably really competitive, to be honest. It really made me let go of that.”
8 She Has Strict Dating Rules For Her Daughter
It looks like the Southern influence really comes out in Reese when the topic turns to her daughter Ava’s love life. According to Popdust, Reese made Ava wait until she turned 16 to start dating, which of course attracted even more boys to the Legally Blonde star’s front door. An inside source also told the publication that Reese isn’t cool with her daughter just dating anybody.
“She wants to meet the guy first, the basically interview them to make sure they are up to par,” the source revealed (via Popdust). “Ava likes surfers and bad boys, but Reese wants her to date members of the debate team and the boys’ choir!”
7 The Study Sessions Can Be Intense
One of the ways in which Reese can be stricter than other moms with her family is studying and school. Although her youngest child Tennessee is probably still a little too young to start studying all night, Reese revealed on social media that her kids work incredibly hard to achieve good grades.
“So proud of my kids for working so hard and always bringing their best selves to each challenge,” she captioned a picture of them, which was shared with her followers. “All those early morning wake ups and late night study sessions paid off! Congrats to my super stars!”
6 She Won’t Apologize For Nagging
A lot of parents are careful not to nag their kids too much, but Reese couldn’t care less if she turns into a nagger, as long as it gets her kids to listen to her. In fact, the actress (jokingly) confessed that yelling at your kids is a must.
“We have rules around the house,” she said (via Huffington Post). “I always say if you aren’t yelling at your kids you’re not spending enough time with them. Just telling everyone to clean up all the time. I feel like I’m always telling people to clean up. ‘Clean up, clean up, put your dishes in the dishwasher, put your clothes in the laundry, come on now.’”
5 When It Comes To Household Duties, She Plans Ahead
Organization is a priceless skill when you’re a parent. Even though she may have access to a lot of help, Reese has opened up about how she plans ahead during stressful periods of her life, so she doesn’t fall behind on the simple things like household duties.
“The first few months with a baby are so disorienting,” she said (via Huffington Post). “I felt like my brain was scrambled eggs, and I think it us, understandably, hard to get dressed or even get out of the house—you have to go easy on yourself. Having prepared foods in the fridge and freezer was essential because thinking about cooking made me want to cry.”
4 She Makes Sacrifices To Give Her Kids Everything
So she can give her kids the best life possible, Reese sometimes makes sacrifices. This includes not spending as much time as she wants with them so she can put time and effort into her work and provide for them financially.
“There are some sacrifices you make, and it hurts your heart sometimes, but my kids tell me they’re proud of what I’ve accomplished, and that just means everything,” she said (via Huffington Post). “I grew up with a working mom, and I have so much respect for the things she did as a nurse and a teacher. I would never begrudge her that.”
3 When She Teaches Her Kids Things, She Doesn’t Always Expect Them To Listen
Even though Reese learns a lot from her kids, and is inspired to be a better person because of them, she also teaches them lessons to help them prepare for life. And she is honest about the fact that, even though she is always giving them information, she doesn’t actually expect them to take it all in, so when that happens, it can be a bit of a shock.
“This is so dumb, but the other day Ava said, ‘Well, Mom, you said that drinking water with lemon is good for my body,” the star recalled. “I burst into tears, going, ‘Oh my God, you listen to me!’ Parenting triumph.”
2 She’s Teaching Them To Make Their Own Financial Decisions
Part of preparing your kids for adult life is teaching them how to be in charge of their finances. Since all her kids were little, Reese has been slowly teaching them about saving money and giving them the freedom to make their own financial decisions (on a very small scale, of course!).
“I give each of the kids five dollars when we go to the farmer’s market on the weekends,” she explained (via People). “They can buy something, save it, or spend part of it and save the rest. My son is just like me: The minute he gets the money, he spends it all on something delicious. But my daughter will go around the market for a half hour weighing the possibilities until she buys one thing.”
1 She Isn’t Pressuring Her Kids To Go To College
When parents want the best for their kids, they sometimes fall into the trap of putting too much pressure on them and forcing them to take paths that they’re not passionate about. Reese has decided that she’s not going to force her kid to go to college, and she’s also not going to force them to follow in her footsteps as actors.
“I do think [being in the entertainment industry] is hard and I would definitely illuminate all the difficulties,” Reese explained (via Mirror). “But my kids don’t seem to be gravitating towards it anyway. So we’ll just have to wait and see.”
Sources: People, Huffington Post, Popdust, Mirror, Brit Co, USA Today