Arnold Schwarzenegger, Reese Witherspoon parent with tough love: ‘Learning from failure’

Hollywood is a tough place to raise kids, prompting some celebrities to take a tough-love approach to parenting.

Stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger, who admitted to being like a “drill instructor” when his kids were young, and Reese Witherspoon, who recently said she wants kids to deal with failure more directly, have shared their harsher parenting styles in interviews.

Others, like Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis and Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard, are focused on keeping their kids grateful for growing up in famous families with wealth and privilege at their fingertips.

Here’s a look at a few celebrity parents focusing on firmer parenting.

Split screen of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Reese Witherspoon

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Reese Witherspoon have both shared some of their tough-love approaches to parenting. (Getty Images)

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold Schwarzenegger, who shares four children with ex-wife Maria Shriver and also shares a son with Mildred Baena, the family’s former housekeeper, has a disciplined approach to parenting, recently admitting he had a “drill instructor” approach when his kids were young.

In a recent interview with People while promoting his new book, he recalled a moment when his eldest daughter, Katherine, brought over her 3-year-old daughter, Lyla, and saw the lesson he passed down.

“Katherine comes over with Lyla, and she says, ‘Lyla, I told you already not to put the shoes there. Keep your shoes on, or you put them away, but you don’t leave them there by the stand in front of the fireplace because you know what Daddy did? When I left my shoes there twice? The third time, he burned them in front of me and I cried,'” he said.

Schwarzenegger said the story was “absolutely” true, and he took pride in knowing that Katherine “uses the same methods, which she cried over, and she complained about” with Lyla as well as her other daughter, Eloise, both of whom she shares with husband Chris Pratt.

Christopher Schwarzenegger, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Maria Shriver, Christina Schwarzenegger and Katherine Schwarzenegger pose together

Arnold Schwarzenegger is shown with then-wife Maria Shriver and their children, Christopher, Patrick, Katherine and Christina, in 2006. (Eric Charbonneau / WireImage for Sony Pictures-Los Angeles)


The 76-year-old also shared similar tough-love approaches with his eldest son, Patrick.

Schwarzenegger said that when he was 9, he threw his mattress outside after Patrick didn’t make the bed.

“I opened up the door to the balcony, picked up the mattress and threw it down with the bedsheets, the pillows, everything. I said, ‘Don’t ever make someone come in and clean your room, clean your shower or make your bed,'” he told People. “I said, ‘Because I taught you how to make the bed.'”

He also battled over shower time with Patrick, feeling he was taking too long, and came up with a plan to limit them by installing a timer, similar to ones he’d used in Munich.

“And so when he got the shower on, and he was whistling and singing in there and thinking Daddy’s not around, all the sudden the ice-cold shower came on. And all of a sudden, we heard downstairs the scream,” Schwarzenegger said.

Arnold and Patrick Schwarzengger posing together

Arnold Schwarzenegger said he kept showers to five minutes when his son, Patrick, was younger and even installed a timer to turn the water off if he went too long. (Gisela Schober / Getty Images for GQ / File)

The former California governor also recently issued a warning that if young people are over-pampered, this nation may be “creating a generation of wimps and weak people.”

“You can only strengthen your character and become a really strong person inside if you have resistance, if you fail, if you get up again and if you work hard,” Schwarzenegger said on “The Howard Stern Show.”


Reese Witherspoon

Reese Witherspoon in a teal strapless dress smiles on the red carpet in Los Angeles

Reese Witherspoon is a mom of three and thinks kids need to be “learning from failure” more often. (Jon Kopaloff / Getty Images / File)

Reese Witherspoon is a mom of three. She shares her eldest children, Ava and Deacon, with ex-husband Ryan Phillippe, and her youngest, Tennessee, with ex-husband Jim Toth.

In a recent interview on the “Good Inside with Dr. Becky” podcast, the Oscar-winner said she wants to see kids live with failure a little more.

“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. I was suspended from school,” she recalled.

She added, “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.”

Reese Witherspoon with ex-husband Jim Toth and her kids, Ava, Deacon, and Tennessee

Reese Witherspoon is shown with Ava Phillippe, Deacon Phillippe, Tennessee James Toth and then-husband Jim Toth in 2016. (Todd Williamson / Getty Images)


The “Walk the Line” star remembered comforting her daughter when she was younger after she lost a basketball game – but not shying away from the lesson.

Witherspoon recalled saying, “‘Yeah, I know. I know that probably feels really bad,'” but then adding, “‘You know what also? Maybe you’re not good at basketball?'”

Her daughter was slightly upset in the moment, but Witherspoon continued, “It’s actually really important to learn what you’re not good at.”


Daniel Craig

Daniel Craig posing on stage

Daniel Craig said he has no plans to leave his wealth from working in movies, including the James Bond films, to his kids. (Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty Images for National Board of Review / File)

James Bond star Daniel Craig shares one daughter with wife Rachel Weisz and has an older daughter from his previous marriage to Fiona Loudon. He is also step-dad to Weisz’s son from a previous relationship.

But Craig’s children shouldn’t expect a pile of money when he’s gone.

In an interview with Saga Magazine in 2020, Craig said, “My philosophy is to get rid of it or give it away before you go. I don’t want to leave great sums to the next generation.”

A year later in an interview with Candis magazine, he repeated the sentiment that inheritance is “distasteful” and pondered the overall nature of wealth.

“Isn’t there an old adage that if you die a rich person, you’ve failed? I think Andrew Carnegie gave away what in today’s money would be about 11 billion dollars, which shows how rich he was because I’ll bet he kept some of it, too,” he said.


Freddie Prinze Jr. and Sarah Michelle Gellar

Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddie Prinze Jr pose together

Freddie Prinze Jr. said that he and wife Sarah Michelle Gellar are “strict as hell” when it comes to raising their kids. (Jesse Grant / Getty Images for Paramount+ / File)

“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” star Sarah Michelle Gellar and husband Freddie Prinze Jr. share two kids together and have been married for more than 20 years.

In a 2021 interview with Us Weekly, Prinze gave some details on how they parent their kids, now ages 13 and 11.

“We are strict as hell,” the “I Know What You Did Last Summer” star told the outlet. “Look, I don’t believe in whooping kids. I’ve never whooped mine. My mom whooped me. They were, like, preventative whooping, so I know how to be strict.”

Prinze added that Gellar also knows how to be strict and has “100 rules” for their kids.


Close up of Sarah Michelle Gellar

Sarah Michelle Gellar said she and Freddie Prinze Jr. don’t allow phones at the table and that their kids “know they can’t break” other family rules. (Paul Archuleta / Getty Images / File)

“They know they can’t break [those rules],” he said. “Friendships come and go. I tell my kids all the time that family is forever. So, we have rules, and they’ve got to follow [them].”

Gellar told Us Weekly in 2020 that as parents their “expectations are a little higher than most.”

“I think [our children] know what the rules are,” she said at the time. “We have [family dinner] as many nights as we can. We have no phones at the table. We sit, we all have dinner together.”

Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis

Ashton Kutcher in black tuxedo and Mila Kunis in a black dress on the carpet

Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis share two children, and Kunis has said she doesn’t want to raise them to be “entitled a–holes.” (Axelle/Bauer-Griffin / FilmMagic / Getty Images / File)

Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis have been married since 2015 and share two children, daughter Wyatt, 9, and son Dmitri, 6.

To help keep their kids grounded, Kunis revealed in a 2020 interview on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” how she keeps their privilege in check. 

“I like to remind them that Mommy and Daddy have money, but they’re broke all the time,” she said with a laugh. “That is not their bedroom, it is my bedroom that I’m letting them use, so they better take good care of it.”

She continued, “I say this in jest, but really they don’t have things … they’re raised on hand-me-downs from girlfriends’ kids’ clothing; we garden.”

Kunis noted her kids are lucky to be born into a famous family and wants to ensure they are grateful.

“Our kids are super-fortunate,” she said. “Regardless, they were born at the right time to the right people, and I love them, but they’re not going to be entitled a–holes.”


Candace Cameron Bure

aleri Bure, Lev Valerievich Bure, actress Candace Cameron-Bure, Maksim Valerievich Bure, and Natasha Valerievna Bure attend the premiere of Netflix's

Candace Cameron Bure is shown with her husband, Valeri Bure, and children Lev, Maksim and Natasha in 2016. (Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images)

“Full House” star Candace Cameron Bure is a proud mom of three with husband Valeri Bure: Natasha, Lev and Maksim, who are now all in their early 20s.

When her kids were teenagers, Bure spoke with L.A. Parent about her parenting style, noting that she can be “strict.”

“I hope my kids would say that I’m a loving mom,” Bure said. “They would also describe me as strict. We set firm boundaries, but there is always love and grace.”

She continued, “I’m the mom that needs to meet the parents before my kids can go to a new friend’s house. I want to know who they’re with, where they’re going. Even now that they’re driving, I want them to text me when they arrive and when they’re heading home.”

Candace Cameron Bure red carpet

Candace Cameron Bure said she is “strict” but “there is always love and grace.” (Getty Images / File)


Bure explained that they “work hard to keep our communication open and talk through any situation” and they are “always willing to listen.” 

“But I don’t always say yes,” she added. “My goal as a parent is not to make my kids happy but to guide them to be respectful, curious, responsible, resilient, kind, giving and thoughtful adults.”


Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard

Dax Shepard in a sherpa jean jacket sits next to Kristen Bell in a custard colored jacket

Kristen Bell revealed that she and Dax Shepard have their daughters share a bedroom to help “develop a good character.” (Cindy Ord / Getty Images / File)

Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard share two daughters together, Lincoln, 10, and Delta, 8, and have been married for 10 years.

The couple has been honest about the trials and tribulations of raising their kids, especially to keep them grounded.

“It’s very important to me that they share a bedroom. I think their lives will be easier than most other people’s on the planet, and to develop a good character, it’s important to always be going through something,” Bell told Self in 2020.

“I like the fact that they will have to figure out how to share a bedroom, figure out how to share your closet, figure out how to share your space,” she continued. “If that’s the worst thing about your life, that you have to share a bedroom with your sister, you’re going to be OK.”

Actress Kristen Bell during an interview on Monday, June 20, 2022

Kristen Bell said she and Shepard also limit screen time but let their kids indulge on weekends. (Todd Owyoung / NBC / NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images / File)


Bell also laid out her strict screen-time rules, but she admits they get a little lax on the weekends.

“They’re not allowed to play with our phones or have any screens really. They are allowed to watch TV on the weekends, and we’re pretty liberal with it, which I’ve been considering paying more attention to,” she said. “But since they’re not allowed at all during the week, they will wake up at 6:30 on a Saturday morning, and they will watch TV until noon. I will also sleep until 9:45, which is really nice, and then get stuff done.”

The “Frozen” star added, “But I will say, I notice how hard it is to pull them away from the TV at noon.”

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