Angelina Jolie, 42, is a mother to six children–Maddox, age 16, Zahara, age 13, Pax, age 14, Shiloh, age 11, and twins, Knox and Vivienne, age nine. Three of her children are adopted. All are with her ex-husband, Brad Pitt, 54. As such, she has a lot of wonderful and deeply thought-out tips on parenting that she has learned throughout the years. As it is for anyone, it has been trial and error, and new challenges have constantly arisen, some of which inspired these tips.
At the heart of these well-crafted tips, however, it’s clear there is a theme: spend as much time as you can with your children. This is a value that she prides herself on passing down onto the next generation, and she thanks her mother for this. Jolie’s own other stayed at home, allowing her to spend as much time as she possibly could with her. Jolie has adjusted her schedule to the advantage of child-raising, by taking turns and taking on fewer projects as she could. When Jolie and Pitt were able to, they always tried to have at least one parent at home and one alternating out in the workforce at a time.
She also made the choice to homeschool her children, in part to provide them with exposure to information about each of their own unique cultures, since she could then help guide the curriculum herself. Homeschooling has been one tool which also allowed Jolie the flexibility to travel with her children throughout the world, no matter what time of year it is. Her tips are shaped by her own globally-oriented ideals and unusual life. Even at times where travel is not an option, that wide viewpoint allows them to always stay touch with a moral ideal shaped by always trying to help humanity.
These are lessons that she gleaned, in part, from her mother, the late Marceline Bertrand (May 9, 1950–January 27, 2007). Bertrand raised Jolie as a single mother herself. Through her mother’s wonderful, powerful example and teaching, Jolie was inspired to devote herself to the well-being of her large family, and that is the motto that drives her strength. Through the numerous challenges, she has faced, she has both learned as she went and drawn on existing ideals to shape the framework of her parenting style. The effort to shape her life around what will ultimately aid the growth of her children is the key element in all her parenting tips.
10. The Most Important Tip: Listen
Angelina Jolie’s most important tip is simple and accessible to all women. In this case, Jolie draws on her own experiences with her mother. She has spoken openly about her deep admiration for her mother, who has always inspired her. By looking to the aspects of parenting her mother used to raise her, she used this to reflect on how she could help her own children. This came down to listening to them.
“Really the only way I know to raise them is to really listen. It’s perhaps the most important thing any parent can do,” she said. By listening, she can always keep the connection open to them. No matter how hard Jolie works on her career, she always makes sure listening to her children is a priority. Though hard to do under duress, that feedback from her children is integral.
By listening, she allows herself to experience a friendship with them as well as the bond of a mother. She has repeatedly emphasized the importance of the duality of these roles. This is the crux of her accessibility to her children. She also makes sure that her children know that she has a readily available ear. To project this value forth requires quite a conscious exertion of parenting effort. Jolie’s children feel comfortable coming to her about all of their concerns, and her parenting style always tries to reflect them being allowed to make their own choices. This especially reflects in their curriculum and style of dress. Jolie’s children all feel free to be individuals and are not censored in this respect. Jolie’s overall parenting tips are always constructed to allow her children maximum freedom.
9. Involve the Grandparents
Jolie makes sure to involve her father, Jon Voight, in her children’s lives. This way she can enrich them with a sense of family, make early memories, and provide another strong source of love for them. “I love to play with my grandchildren,” Voight said. “I’m not an armchair grandfather — I’m interactive. The happiest sound for me is sitting in my house and hearing children and their laughter.”
Providing as many strong figures as she can in her children’s lives is important to Jolie, especially in the absence of their maternal grandmother. Heritage is also very important to Jolie, who never lets her adopted children lose touch with the cultures that they were born in. She has always made sure that her adopted children actually got to travel to their birth countries, even from an early age. Events such as adoption anniversaries are celebrated so that they may take pride in all aspects of their journey to become a family. Her parenting style includes a focus on both the self and the family as a larger whole.
Another dominant element in her tips is her emphasis on the importance of culture and travel. Though we don’t all have a massive budget for travel for their family, the ideals of self, culture and heritage that Jolie instills are universal lessons that can be taught from anywhere. She lives the ideals she speaks of by being very involved in the schooling, hobbies, and by traveling with her family, keeping them as close as she can. Impressive!
8. Set a Good Example
Jolie tries to exemplify the best embodiment of a strong woman and a humanitarian that she can for her children. She especially emphasizes to her daughters the importance of service to others. “Find out who you are, what you think, and what you stand for,” she tells them. “And fight for others to have those same freedoms. A life of service is worth living.” Jolie herself is a goodwill ambassador and UN special envoy, and often takes her children traveling to widen their world experiences. She has frequently taken them to connect with each of their birth homes respectively, which entails traveling as far as Ethiopia, Cambodia, and Vietnam.
Recently she took them to both Jordan and France, for very different experiences. Instead of separating them from the experience, she has them see what she aspires to do, and how she personally is trying to shape the world. In Jordan, Jolie has been doing the best she could to lift the spirits of Syrian refugees. She spoke to families, listened to their harrowing experiences, and imparted both her thoughts and her empathy. She spoke on grave topics, such as war, and certainly immersed her and her family as much as she could in personally attempting to connect and uplift the refugees. Her children were working closely with her, meeting children their age going through horrific things miles away from what most people in America could even fathom. Like their mother, they tried to help and forge connections with other children that could give them hope.
In France, they toured the Louvre, gaining a lighter, but also very much important, exposure to art and culture. By exposing her children to a wide range of experiences, she is helping them form a broader picture of the world. By interjecting fun into more serious volunteer missions and hands-on lessons, she doesn’t wear them down with one focus or another. She keeps the spectrum of their learning experience diverse. Jolie retains the perspective of art and culture as a valuable mind-shaping tool, as equally as other learning topics.
Using tutors, time management, and homeschooling, she has broadened that impact to the best of her ability. In fact, Jolie tries to keep her family around her as often as possible, weaving their new experience with irreplaceable family time. Museum trips can be a sneaky way to sneak learning into fun, and often can merge into informal history lessons. Some volunteering can be done involving the whole family, as well.
7. Family is Always First, But Never Forget Your Own Health
It was difficult for Jolie to balance her personal health and putting her children first in the midst of a divorce, and with the prioritization of her children, she neglected her health more than she desired to. Putting your children first is always admirable. But Jolie’s own health meant that she needed to pay attention to both to give her best side to both family and personal needs. This spurred her to return to a much greater focus and awareness of her health. Though it might feel oppositional, she felt she was then more able to provide the best care for her children by doing so. She was also setting an example for them, showing her strength and never losing sight of self-preservation. All mothers could probably benefit from cutting themselves slack about trying to keep up a bare minimum of self-care.
“I actually feel more of a woman because I feel like I’m being smart about my choices, and I’m putting my family first, and I’m in charge of my life and my health. I think that’s what makes a woman complete,” Jolie reflected. Through the rigors of divorce, she has felt more pressure, but that was when she needed her health the most. Finding the time for self-care might be the last priority, but neglecting it will eventually taint the energy needed to put a good foot forward.
6. In Challenges such as Divorce, Perspective is Vital
When speaking of life in 2017 following events surrounding her divorce, Jolie was quoted saying, “It’s happy. Happy and light, and we needed that,” she says. “None of it’s easy. It’s very, very difficult, a very painful situation, and I just want my family healthy.” Though divorce may be the hardest situation to keep perspective in, this is when it remains most crucial to fight to keep the environment positive, hopefully causing a ripple effect that will help dispel depression and doubt. Retaining an acute awareness of how her children are faring through these events is also crucial to her parenting style. Jolie hopes by banding together they can suffer the least and provide the most emotional support even in the worst of times.
Jolie has had to strengthen the bond between herself and her children, instead of letting these events distance them or leave them in a negative pattern. “The real will to survive, and the strength of the human spirit, and the love of the human family becomes so present, and that’s how we should all be living,” she said. In this interview, she also extolled the presence of friendship between parent and child. This is one way to ensure that communication is imparted to her children as a top priority.
5. Don’t Play Good Cop, Bad Cop
Jolie advocates for a balance between parents, in terms of who takes on the role of disciplinarian. “I used to be the tougher parent but since the birth of the twins, Brad’s had to play bad cop more often,” she told OK! Magazine. Speaking of the differences between them, she acknowledges that balance between the two is important to remember. Jolie also believes that any parenting techniques should play on the strength of both partners.
It is also important not to undermine the other parent and their beliefs. While they do play to each parent’s strength, the rules need to be the same across the board. Though currently, the children are moving between both Jolie and Pitt’s separate households, there is not a balance of power hinged entirely on one parent. Though each parent may feel more inherently comfortable as a disciplinarian or taking on the role of a “good cop,” the ultimate product must be a front that provides the maximum stability for their children.
Support and communication between the parents is crucial, especially in establishing a foundation of constant helpful boundaries for her children. The uniformity of the rules between partners will serve to minimize confusion. Jolie also speaks to how her parenting is structured in a manner that the children feel comfortable circumnavigating either parent, instead always being made to understand that a “no” from one parent is not merely an excuse to implore the other parent. That helps enforce the rules both parents believe in even with the other parent is absent.
4. Teach Them About Your Work
Jolie often brings her children on the red carpets and even along with her to award shows. She has involved many of her children in her films. She was able to play and find joy with them and still fit in work in this way. Daughter Vivienne Pitt-Jolie was featured next to Jolie in her film Maleficent, and viewers can see the playfulness she exudes in the film, as she interacts both verbally and non-verbally with her young daughter. Though not everyone can involve their children so deeply in their work, nor perhaps even bring them at all, Jolie’s tips are based on being as creative as she can within the constraints of her career. Sometimes she even decides to waive a project to place her emphasis on her children.
Parents who can’t take their children to work (nor call off work due to financial or other limitations of life) can at least tell them about their careers. They can explain their motivations and how their work contributes to the world. Jolie herself often weaves her humanitarian work and messages into her film projects, and always works especially hard to convey this to her children. She is often seen next to them in photographs, clearly involving them from an early age in both the glittery world of Hollywood as well as bringing them to war-ravaged countries and third-world nations, such as Ethiopia and Cambodia. In this way, her children and their view of reality is never stilted in either direction and is widened beyond the myopic opulence of Hollywood life.
3. Recruit Parent Friends
When it comes to finding an emotionally comfortable place, Jolie also draws upon the strength of close female friends. Part of it is to surround her and her children with examples of strong women, and part is for her own reflective conversations as a mother. She speaks of her parent friend Nora Twomey, who she worked with recently on a film called The Breadwinner, “Nora and I, when we spend time alone, spend most of our time just talking about being moms, and I think that’s the balance. We’re all trying to find balance, as people. I think to be a balanced person, you have to find those things that you just purely enjoy.”
Self-care is a broad topic, one that can comprise of anything from inner monologue to outward efforts of care, and sometimes can even be included in recruiting other people to augment the state of mental health by providing both an output and a network of like-minded resources. This is an integral part of Jolie’s self-care routine. By talking with other moms, there may be more ways to find solutions with her own children and reassure herself that she’s doing everything she can for them by talking it out. She draws from that sense of mom companionship and speaks to her mom friends in a supportive, non-competitive manner. Other parents or parent support groups, book clubs, whatever helps provide a peer element, can be utterly invaluable. Such allies can even be drawn from work. Friends can often provide a different and reassuring perspective.
2. Teach Your Children to Have an Open Mind
Two ways Jolie does this, besides traveling widely with her children, are a little unusual, but again, these tips can be applied in a universal way. She has encouraged them to try eating insects, spiders, and scorpions, leading by example by bravely trying them herself. While this may seem like an extreme example, by exposing them to more unique experiences at a young age, she is expanding their realms of possibility, and keeping them far more open-minded towards other cultures and their ideals. Allowing children to try other cuisines takes them beyond an American palate. Perhaps simply other spices would be a good way to start!
Linguistically, Jolie also encourages her children to have an open mind and not stay narrowly rooted in any one culture. Each child is required to learn a language, and they were allowed to choose what language to study. By involving them in this choice, she hopes to build their own passion for the world. She is always eager to listen to their input. This will also set them up to travel widely throughout their lives and be able to communicate with more people throughout the world. This is part of how she allows them to connect with their countries of birth, though the children have chosen which language to study based on their individual interests.
1. Befriend Your Children
Friendships between parents and children aren’t implicit, as parents also must enforce disciplinarian rules. Jolie tries to keep a ratio of both, within healthy boundaries. By keeping them close in everything, from work, to museum trips, the friendships can grow organically. As mentioned before, Jolie makes an effort to form friendships with her children, spanning the border between parent and friend. Not all parents believe in abiding by this rule, but in her parenting tips, she advocates for this. By going through both good and bad times, she has always tried to keep that window open to her children. By forming a friendship with her children while they are children, Jolie hopes to cement a solid foundation later in life to friendships with children as they progress into their adult years. In this respect, starting young is an excellent way to prepare to endure the famously trying time of the teenage years.
Jolie also emphasizes the importance of spending one-on-one time with each child individually, rotating her focus between all of them and showing them that she has the time and energy to equally devote to them. This gives her children space to express thoughts and feelings privately and allows Jolie to focus solely on them in the moment. This is a method that Jolie utilizes so that nobody feels excluded, nor less important than any other member of the family. This tip is crucial when handling a wide range of ages, as Jolie does. It also serves well to take an active role in parenting to prevent the development of resentment in sibling relationships. She also plans family events, ranging from red carpet events to holidays, travel, joint activities sharing tutors during school hours, and visits with grandpa. This serves to help the family always keep their group identity as well.