He’s an Oscar-winning actor with three kids and a penchant for saying “Alright, alright, alright.” Who is: Matthew McConaughey.
The Texan joined newly minted Jeopardy! host Mayim Bialik for the latest episode of her mental health podcast, Mayim Bialik’s Breakdown, which she co-hosts with boyfriend Jonathan Cohen. Among the topics the trio discussed included parenthood, with McConaughey revealing that becoming a father made him feel “immortal.”
“First child born — that was a biggie for me,” the 51-year-old, who shares two sons and one daughter with wife Camila Alves McConaughey, told Bialik and Cohen. “I remember [thinking] to myself, I was like, I just became immortal. Biologically so, but even more than that, this is it. This is what I’ve dreamed of being all my life — not immortal, but a father.”
Later, the Greenlights author reflected on how his parenting style compares to how his parents — whose tumultuous, occasionally violent relationship he has written about — raised him. According to McConaughey, his parents’ approach was “fear-based,” but one he credits with helping “keep me in line” because he understood there would be consequences.
“I’ve tried to evolve as a parent too,” he shared. “I don’t judge my parents or how they did it as right or wrong or ‘oh, you can’t do it that way anymore.’ I’m trying to instill the same values my parents tried to instill in us. I try to do it in different ways. Do we have much longer discussions with our kids? Yes.”
He added that, in contrast to his parents, he and Alves “don’t really do physical punishment” but admitted that “it’s tough figuring out” how to implement consequences — such as taking away a kid’s screentime — so that the child in question understands why they’re being punished.
“Camila and I are trying to do it different than my parents did, or even her parents did. Are we doing it better? I don’t know,” he admitted. “We’ll see how the kids get out there and negotiate. Me and my two brothers have done alright, and my older brothers had it rougher than I did… ”
McConaughey went on to share that his kids are now aged 8, 11 and 13, and are starting “to become their own little people,” posing new parenting challenges as a one-size-fits-all rule system no longer works.
“You’ve got to go, ‘Wait, I’m gonna treat you fairly but I’m not gonna treat you all the same,'” he said, explaining that one kid might have purposely slipped up while another unintentionally did so, and thus different consequences are needed.
“We are big on consequences,” he continued. “Consequences always get a bad rap as always being the bad. Consequences have an equal amount of being the good, the pleasure, as well. We are a pretty disciplined family. I like the manners and graces that my parents taught me — I like sirs and ma’ams and please and thank you.”
Bialik agreed, sharing that her two sons aren’t allowed to call an adult by their first name.
“It’s a great thing of respect,” McConaughey agreed. “I even call my kids mister and missus just to get them in the lingo of going back and forth… ”
At the same time, he says that he and his wife try to give their kids “more agency.”
“We listen to more debates than my parents would’ve listened to,” he laughed.
He shared that another tactic they’ve tried lately: a little silent treatment.
“One of the kids doesn’t listen to the rules. OK. I’m going to walk around and ignore you for the day. Why? Because you ignored me. It’s a quiet but good one. ‘Why didn’t I get a plate set?’ ‘Oh! Didn’t know you were here eating.'”
The Dazed and Confused star went on to share how becoming a father shook his world.
“I don’t know how it is for the mother, but for the father, a man’s never more masculine than that time when he has his first child,” he said. “Again, for me, I was like, ‘I’m immortal.’ Literally, biologically. I am now immediately, inherently, instinctually living for the future, where yesterday I wasn’t… My decisions are based on consideration for them too., and their future.”
He added that he initially thought that raising a child “was a lot more environment than it was DNA” — but now realizes that some things are out of one’s control.
“They are who they are,” he said. “That was a big surprise for me as a parent… I came in thinking it was what we do as parents [that mattered].”
He said that as his kids grow, he sees them as “three completely different individuals now.”
When asked by Bialik if he has a “mini-me,” McConaughey admitted that his boys both emulate him, in different ways, sometimes to the frustration of wife Camila. (“That’s you!” she’ll point out when one son is in trouble.)
Oldest son Levi, 13, “is very much a perfectionist, very much… clear about what he wants and has incredible debates about it,” said his dad. While Levi has the “salesman side,” younger son Livingston is “wonderfully stubborn,” a trait he tries to temper by encouraging empathy and acceptance of other points of view.
“I see a lot of myself in them and if I don’t, my wife reminds me,” he cracked. “‘Yep, that was you.”