Reese Witherspoon shares brutally honest parenting style: ‘Know your players’

Reese Witherspoon has spoken candidly about her one parenting tactic that others may not agree with.

The 47-year-old producer has admitted she’s not in the business of lying to her kids. While speaking on the Good Inside with Dr Becky podcast to promote her new children’s book Busy Betty and the Circus Surprise, Witherspoon opened up about how she thinks deceit will only delay their growth.

That being said, as a mother to her 24-year-old daughter Ava, her 19-year-old son Deacon, and her 11-year-old son Tennessee, Witherspoon said she has adopted a “brutally honest” mindset.

“Each one of your kids is gonna be totally different… As parents, it’s our job not to make them conform to who we want them to be — it’s our jobs to figure out who they are and help them play to their strengths,” the Legally Blonde lead explained.

Witherspoon shares Ava and Deacon with her first husband, Ryan Phillippe, and Tennessee with her recent ex-partner, Jim Toth. Even without age as a factor, all three of her children have different personalities, according to Witherspoon.

“I have one very introverted kid, very quiet. I have a very social kid,” she said. “And I have a kid who’s very talkative, very inquisitive, and like, almost endlessly curious.”

The Big Little Lies actor went on to explain the importance of “knowing your players” and understanding that there’s power in allowing children to struggle. Failure may feel like the worst thing, but it can also be the most valuable experience.

As her book hits shelves, Witherspoon hopes readers will walk away reflecting on the intentional lessons inscribed, especially how it pays to learn from disappointment. “I see this a lot with parents. I don’t know when we stopped letting our kids fail,” she noted.

Betty, the main character in her book, is described as an embodiment of all three of her children, and herself as a child.

“Little Busy Betty is who I was as a girl — high-spirited, lots of different ideas, learning from failure, which is a big piece of the book,” Witherspoon proclaimed. “And a lot of it is literally things that have happened to my children or questions they’ve asked me.”

At the same time, the desire to allow her children to fail is a direct result of her upbringing. For her, missing assignments, being suspended for disruptive behavior, and not paying attention turned out to be beneficial.

The Wild star said: “I learned so much from the paper I didn’t turn in, or the demerits I got so I got a 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.”

When her parents didn’t reprimand her or defend her actions, Witherspoon was then forced to reflect alone and “sit in it and feel uncomfortable”.

“I think learning from failure is actually a valuable tool that you can’t take away from kids,” she added. “You rob them if you don’t let them sit in the discomfort of the experience.”

Witherspoon has worked hard to put this into practice in her household. She offered the example of how Ava got upset over not being as good as she wanted to be at basketball when she was younger. After finding her daughter crying at the end of the season, Witherspoon decided to be candid and comforting simultaneously.

“I said: ‘You know what… maybe you’re not good at basketball.’ She was like: ‘What! How can you tell me I’m not good at something?’” she noted. “I was like: ‘It’s actually really important to learn what you’re not good at.’”

Witherspoon and Toth announced their official split in March 2023 following 12 years of marriage.

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