Matthew McConaughey's Tips for Raising Teens Are Spot-On

The 'Dazed and Confused' actor debuts his children's book, 'Just Because,' and shares the parenting lessons he's learning.

<p>Nathan Congleton/NBC via Getty Images</p>

Nathan Congleton/NBC via Getty Images

Fact checked by Karen Cilli

Matthew McConaughey recalls a time in his early teen years where a friend had lied to him. That led to the end of their friendship. Eventually, McConaughey realized his former friend wasn’t actually a liar; he just happened to lie that one time.

It was a big life lesson for the future Academy Award winner. “Don’t blanket statement somebody for just one thing they did,” he says. “We have a tendency to do that in life—throw a character trait on somebody for one deed when many times they just screwed up that one time.”

It’s life lessons like these McConaughey is sharing in Just Because, his debut children’s book, which he says was inspired by a dream. “I woke up at 2:30 in the morning and wrote down basically what you see in the book,” McConaughey explains. 

The children’s book offers words of wisdom through contradictions many can relate to, like: “Just because I’m dirty, doesn’t mean I can’t get clean. Just because you’re nice, doesn’t mean you can’t get mean.”

Even though the book is recommended for children ages 4 to 8, McConaughey says kids of all ages can benefit—and so can their parents. “There's some things that my own kids are going through that I think every kid goes through," says the Dazed and Confused star. "There's some things that I look at and go, ‘Oh, this is a good lesson for me as a 53-year-old man. It's for adults, too.”

The cover of the children’s book is a treehouse which holds symbolism for the actor, who built one as a child. “That treehouse that I built was like my trip to outer space; I built my spaceship,” he explains. “A treehouse is the first sort of symbolic refuge where a child gets to go and have their own space. And it's a space where I, as a child, learned to dream.”

He says the picture book can be a healthy conversation starter for families, something McConaughey has already noticed with his own three kids—Levi, 15, Vida, 13, and Livingston, 10—whom he shares with wife, Camila Alves McConaughey. “We read it out loud and then talked about it," he says. "Each topic you could talk about for hours, because everyone's gonna have a different situation and how they apply it to their own life."

Parenting, says McConaughey, is in constant flux as his kids are growing and experiencing new things. “Camila and I are here trying to guide them as best we can and shepherd them, especially now into the teenage years,” he says.

What’s it like parenting those early teen years? “We're not batting 100, but so far, so good,” says McConaughey. He holds on to advice he received from a good friend, who told him, “You want to maintain access in these years,” he explains. “Teens can really start to close up and some of them do.”

Related: Justin Baldoni Releases a Book To Teach Boys About Masculinity, Self-Esteem, and Consent

The actor says there are, of course, things his kids want to keep private. But he has made it a point to have honest and fun conversations with them to help them understand that they don't always have to get it right.

“[I'm always] sharing stories with them about my own teenage years, where I was awkward, where I put my foot in my mouth, where I tried for my first kiss, and my lip did get hung up on her braces, and it was very awkward,” says McConaughey, also author of the 2020 New York Times-bestselling memoir Greenlights. "That takes a little pressure off, hopefully, for my own children as they go into these first times."

While reading through Just Because, the Dallas Buyers Club actor hopes all kids can absorb that message and try to learn how to handle their contradictory feelings.

“This book can maybe take some pressure off kids to feel like they need to be so absolute about everything,” he says. “And then, hopefully, this book can remind them that life is poetic, it's ironic, it's odd, it's beautiful. It's not just black and white.”

Related: Best Children's Books 2022

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