With two teen girls, Academy Award winning actor Laura Dern certainly has some experience when it comes to parenting, developing her own unique discipline style.

The star of Pretty Little Lies, and mother of 19-year-old Ellery and 16-year-old Jaya recently revealed that she doesn’t believe in punishment for her girls. While many parents around the world often resort to removing privileges like phones or being with friends, Dern has a different take on parenting.

Source: Instagram
Source: Instagram

“A very wise person advised me to ask my children, ‘How do you think I should handle this?’ As opposed to ‘You’re grounded.’ Or ‘you’re losing phone privileges,’” Dern shared with TODAY Parents. “You want to try and have a real dialogue around consequence. It made them more accountable. Whenever there was punishment involved, it didn’t always work out so well.”

How does she keep her kids honest and accountable without throwing punishments around?

“Not shaming them by declaring punishment, I think that’s one of the reasons they are so honest with me”

When talking to her kids, she also learned that sometimes it’s not what they’re saying, it’s what they’re not saying. Sometimes when they’re not comfortable revealing everything, the reality is within their story.

“You need to really learn to listen to what your kid is saying, buried in a larger conversation,” Dern shared. “You know when they’re like, ‘my friend is using E-cigarettes, and she says it’s like totally safe. I would never do it, but my friend says it’s cool.’ There’s good chance that they’re the ‘friend.’”

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A post shared by Laura Dern (@lauradern)

Dern is not only an award-winning actress and busy mother, she’s also a passionate activist. On Instagram her feed is filled with her support for anti-gun violence, and now she’s also rallying to stop vaping amongst kids, a growing problem in America, and other nations around the world, including Australia.

“I remember being told by some adult friends that it was a safe alternative to an E-cigarette and there’s no nicotine,” Dern recalled. “Now, it’s a public health emergency.”

When it comes to parenting teens, do you think no punishment is the way to go?

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  • I’m not there yet but I imagine some discipline is still good at that age and each child is different.


  • Gosh she sounds wise here :)


  • Yes need to get to the cause of the issue with children


  • When my boys misbehaved I didn’t need to punish them, they could see how much they hurt me which was punishment enough. The one time my eldest decided to hitchhike to get to a concert I didn’t punish him then either. No, I told the police it was up to them how to handle it. They put him in their lock-up for 1 hour (we live in a small country town) on his own and he never truly misbehaved from then on. It worked. I certainly wouldn’t have allowed that if we lived in a bigger town or city though.


  • This is so true punishments not works for teenagers. That will make them hiding everything from you.


  • Communication and conversation is the way we go.


  • I like the idea of opening it up as a discussion rather than authoritative punishment.


  • Easier said than done. I think it depends on the day, the mood, the situation, the child.


  • I agree, it doesn’t build a good and open relationship by not hearing, discussing and understanding

    • Respect is always so important in families and talking, listening and communicating builds, maintains and strengthens relationships.


  • It’s probably easier for teens. They’re older and should understand consequences, so they should be able to negotiate punishments.


  • My eldest just turned 17 and my son just turned 16 and I have to say I can’t remember when I uberhaupt had to punish them. We have an open relationship with them and we talk things through.
    However I can imagine it will be different with my now 11yr old as she’s deceptive and breaks rules behind the back continuously.


  • I like this idea with teens. My kids aren’t anywhere near their teenage years yet, but I want them to feel comfortable coming to me with a problem even if they’ve done something wrong so that we can work together to solve it. I don’t want them to be too scared of being punished to ask for help.


  • I believe everyone has to be accountable for the wrong things they do. I see her method, but I am not so sure about giving them their choice or say of punishment as it may not teach them to be responsible or accountable for what they have done. It would depend on the child and the action.


  • Love the no shame motto, my parents love shaming me even now as a married mum in my 20s.

    • Yes I agree! My parents were always very quick to punish and it felt like it wasn’t about the behaviour but us as people. The shame cycle is tough to break.


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