Matthew McConaughey is opening up about raising his three children.
While promoting his book, Greenlights, on Dax Shepard’s Armchair Expert podcast, the men discussed similarities in their upbringings — as children of divorce, with not wealthy parents, in households with physical violence — leading the host to ask the Academy Award winner, 50, about raising his kids: Levi, 12, Vida, 10 and Livingston, 7. McConaughey, who married wife Camila in 2012, spoke about guiding his sons as they navigate conflict, and raising all three more means than he had growing up.
McConaughey said a “big question” he has, and one he knows Shepard relates too, is “being in the affluent positions we’re in [after] coming from similar backgrounds, where we had different resistance given to us in different ways — from where we lived to what we drive to how we were raised, disciplined, everything else — how do we give our children the right amount of resistance to be autonomous individuals? Because if we’re saying ‘yes’ all the time and going, ‘Yeah, just use all this influence. That’s who we are. That’s how life is,’ we’re doing them a disservice.”
That led the Dallas Buyers Club star to tell a story about his kids complaining that they’re bored — in their 9-bedroom, 11,000-square-foot Austin, Texas mansion.
“What do you mean you’re bored?” McConaughey recalled asking. “You’re ‘bored’? Well, that’s good. Now go figure it out — and you’re not turning on the tube.”
Shepard said when he grew up outside Detroit, he only knew one friend with a swimming pool, so he worries about his two daughters with Kristen Bell having their own in their yard. If that’s their daily reality, as they also grow up in their mansion, what do they look forward to and what will they view as luxury if that is their normal.
McConaughey said that while he doesn’t want to give his kids everything, he also doesn’t want them to downplay or be embarrassed about what they do have — because he’s worked for it.
“At the same time, we want our children to own the affluence that we have,” he said. “Don’t do any false modesty like, ‘No, my mom and dad aren’t... Yes, we are! Keep your chin high! When someone says, ‘I bet you live in a big house, don’t get shy.’ Don’t feel guilty about that. Own it.”
Shepard said it’s important to acknowledge the privilege while using it to give back to which McConaughey replied, “Take it up a notch in another way. We talk about this a lot in our family: We all want relevance, but we need to ask ourselves first: Relevance for what? What does America say success is now? Well, generally, fame and money. Well, that value system is a little out of place.”
He’s teaching them that bigger isn’t always better — and while a lot of opportunities can be dangled in front of them, staying true to their beliefs and likes is important.
“You and I grew up in ways if you get offered something, then you go, ‘Yeah! Shoot, I never, had any option before,’” McConaughey says of his modest upbringing. “You have to go: Wait a minute. Do I really like my jeans pressed? No, I don’t.”
In McConaughey’s book, he wrote about violent fights between his parents, who were married three times to each other. His father broke his mom’s finger several different times amid disputes, which she was eager to admit she started. McConaughey’s father, a hulking man, would get physical with his sons — and McConaughey got into his own physical disputes growing up. The actor spoke about guiding his own two boys as they encounter different situations and disputes — with Shepard saying he’s glad he doesn’t have sons because the only thing he’d know to advise is to take on the bully or be bullied forever.
“I’ve got one child” — referring to eldest Levi — “that is very much a pacifist,” McConaughey said. “He wants to turn the cheek every time. With him, I [have to say], ‘Hey, that’s beautiful. At the same time, people will try to take advantage of that and will sit there and keep pushing if you don’t stand up for yourself and fight back... I’ve said this — and this happened before — ‘You know what [is] your answer to that kid on the soccer field that’s picking on you? You go down and score on his ass. And when you go by, don’t gloat. Or you go guard him, you tell your coach you want to guard him and then beat him and don’t say a word.’”
Meanwhile, Livingston “is much more physical,” explained dad. “He’s more the one I’m looking at [saying], ‘You don’t have to hit everybody,’” he says with a laugh. “He’s in no means a brute or bully but he’s much more physically confident and would be the one who would much more quickly go, ‘Oh, yeah?’ And you see [the brothers] work it out between themselves a lot, too... Our youngest one has tested our oldest one because he’s more physical and will come at you harder. The oldest one is faster though and a little smarter at things. I’m talking to [Levi], ‘If you don’t want to engage with Livingston on the physical side, just outwit him.’”
He talked about raising both brothers to look out for their sister.
‘“In some form or fashion, boys ... y’all look out for your sister,’” he recalls telling them. “‘Now, you gotta look out for each other as well and yourselves, but that’s your sister. Look out for her.’”
And when she starts dating, she’ll have a lot of protection from anyone with ill intentions.
“‘You’re going to know the boys that like your sister,’” he continued. “‘Now you be real honest: Do you condone, do you approve — cause we’re going to go to you when your sister gets her first date ... [and say] you know that boy. Is he a good young man? Is he worthy of taking your sister out?’”
McConaughey admitted, “I’m still navigating year by year, day by day,” he says of parenting. “As I’m told, it’s about to get more complicated because those teen [years are] come up. We’ll see.”
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