Academy award winning actress Reese Witherspoon spoke to Reader’s Digest in the March 2009 issue about her Southern values, respecting her children’s feelings, and how she loves to talk – just like her mama.
On having rules: “I’m not a super-strict parent, but I think it’s important to have rules for children. It gives them a sense of structure — and that’s what we are all seeking. We just want to know when we’ve done something right or wrong. That’s what I’m trying to teach my own children [Ava, 9, and Deacon, 5].
On the importance of manners and values: “I grew up in Nashville, Tennessee, and my parents taught me to respect my elders. We’d say things like “yes, ma’am” and “no, sir” to adults. 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 the first name is too familiar. Maybe I’m just old-fashioned. Children should learn their values at home. In sixth grade, I took a manners class once a week. We learned things like “What’s the right way to answer the telephone?” My kids set the table every night, and we eat dinner as a family.”
Read the rest of the interview below…
On what her kids like to do with their money: “I give each of the kids five dollars when we go to the farmers’ market on the weekends. 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.”
On respecting her children’s feelings: “I don’t believe in humiliating children in front of their peers. I was, when I was told “Don’t behave that way!” or “Don’t gossip!” I’ve learned so much from other moms. When Ava was little, we were on a playdate, and her friend did something wrong. The girl’s mother said, “Will you excuse us for a second?” Later I asked, “What happened?” She said, “I didn’t like something that Phoebe had done, but I didn’t want to humiliate her in front of Ava.” I thought that was so thoughtful — to be respectful of a little girl’s feelings.”
On choosing her roles: “When my animated character in Monsters vs. Aliens was described to me, I thought, Now, that’s the kind of role I want to play. [Witherspoon is the voice of Ginormica, a young girl who morphs into a 49-foot-11-inch giant and helps save the planet.] She finds her inner strength and becomes part of a family that embraces how strong she is. That’s what I want little girls to see.”
On taking her kids back home: “I take my kids back to Nashville two or three times a year. They’re crazy about the trees and the food. A creek runs through our neighborhood, and they love to walk up and down it — just like I used to do with my brother.”
On her love for reading: “When I was little, my mother and grandmother were such big influences on me. My grandma used to read to me at night, all kinds of books. Now I love to read — I’ll buy ten books at a time!
On how she is like her mother: “My mother is my greatest supporter, and I’m hers. We take care of each other that way. And she’s very chatty. She could talk to a brick wall for two hours. She used to chat with the grocery checker, and I’d say, “Mom, she doesn’t want to know how long it took you to get to school today!” Now my kids do it to me. We’ll go to church and I’ll be talking to someone, and Deacon will be saying, “Come on, let’s go home!”
On taking her children to church: “In the South, there’s a real sense of community — the feeling that people come into your life for a reason. Because I grew up with that, I take my children to church in Los Angeles. It takes you out of your personal experience and universalizes it. You understand that whatever you’re dealing with, someone in that room has either dealt with the same thing or will in the future. We are all struggling to figure out what life is about. We are all just looking for answers.”