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Pop Culture

Actress Mae Whitman credits being able to navigate childhood stardom to her 'gentle dad'

“If everyone had a gentle dad, the world would be a better place,” one commenter wrote.

gentle parenting
@dearmedia/TikTok

Mae Whitman credits her healthy childhood to her "gentle dad."

Hollywood stardom is all too often a dangerous landscape for child actors. Many celebrities who got famous early have come out with their own personal accounts of being exploited and abused by the industry or by their own parents.

Mae Whitman, however, is not one of those actors.

At the age of 6, Whitman starred as Meg Ryan’s daughter in “When a Man Loves a Woman,” and since then has gone on to roles in notable shows like “Arrested Development,” "Parenthood" and “Good Girls.” Now, at age 34, she is starring in a musical comedy on Hulu called “Up Here.”

During a podcast interview with “Dear Media,” Whitman was asked how she managed to navigate early success while dodging those all-too-common pitfalls that many young stars fall victim to.

“I hate to give them all the credit, but it’s my parents,” she quipped. “They ruled. They were so cautious and they were so meticulous about prioritizing and walking me through what was important in life. What not to take personally. Our family was so communication-based.”

She then praised her dad in particular for being a healthy male presence.

@dearmedia#maewhitman is the way she is all thanks to her parents. Shoutout to the #gentledads 🥹 #notskinnybutnotfat#familygoals#podcastclips♬ Storytelling - Adriel

“I grew up with a gentle dad—it’s a term I’ve coined with people,” she said. “A gentle dad is like a sensitive dad. There was no teasing in my house. There was no meanness. There was no ‘You need to make us proud.’ It was an open source of communication and sensitivity and consideration.”

She then gave a sweet story as an example, explaining that as a kid, she could never get into sleepovers and always wanted to go home (relatable for any introvert, to be sure). In order to avoid any embarrassment, Whitman and her father developed a code phrase that signaled it was time to pick her up.

@dearmedia Calling your parents to pick you up at sleepovers > Yes or no? ⬇️ #sleepovers#sleepoverstory#parentpickup#maewhitman#notskinnybutnotfat#podcastclips♬ Graduate - BLVKSHP

“I would call my dad, completely casual,” she recalled, “and be like, ‘It’s awesome I’m having the best time I’ve ever had. But quick question: Did you feed the turtle?’”

Without fail, Whitman’s dad would come and get her. That is Gentle Dad-ing 101.

The interview struck a chord with viewers, many of whom had their own gentle dad to give credit to.

“My dad was a gentle dad and I miss him everyday,” one person wrote.

Another added, “I grew up with a gentle dad, and married a man who is a gentle dad. It’s the biggest flex a man can have.”

And those who didn’t grow up with that kind of support shared how much they yearned for it.

“Ooof to not have Dad issues would absolutely rule,” commented one person.

“Where was the signup sheet? Cuz I missed it,” another echoed.

Regardless, people were unanimously on board with the idea. As one person put it, “If everyone had a gentle dad, the world would be a better place.”

Just another example of how gentle parenting can work wonders for developing some high-functioning, healthy kids, whether they’re thrust into stardom or not.

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