IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Laura Dern shares why she doesn't punish her teenage kids

The Academy Award-winning actor is mom of 19-year-old Ellery and 16-year-old Jaya.

With nearly two decades of parenting under her belt, Laura Dern has a few pearls of wisdom to share on discipline.

“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 told 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.”

The Academy Award winner, who is mom to 19-year-old son, Ellery, and 16-year-old daughter, Jaya, credits the strategy for getting her kids to open up to her about tough topics without fear of judgement.

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

Laura Dern posed with her children and mother, Diane Ladd, at the 92nd Annual Academy Awards in 2020. Amy Sussman / Getty Images

The “Big Little Lies” star said she she also learned early on to look for subtle cues from Jaya and Ellery, whom she shares with ex-husband Ben Harper.

“You need to really learn to listen to what your kid is saying, buried in a larger conversation,” Dern explained. “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.’”

E-cigarettes are a big topic of conversation in the Dern household. The actor, who is an American Lung Association ambassador, recently partnered with the nonprofit to educate about the need to address youth vaping in schools.

“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 we sit with 3.6. million kids using E-cigarettes and it’s a public health emergency. The vaping rates are 73% greater than they were four years ago.”

Almost 20% of high school students are vaping, according to the 2020 National Youth Tobacco Survey. Some users landing in the hospital.

“We’re seeing young people with no other medical problems, who come with coughing and shortness of breath and when we do an X-ray and CT scan, we see signs of inflammation in both lungs,” Dr. Humberto Choi, a pulmonologist and critical care specialist at the Cleveland Clinic, told TODAY Health in 2019. Choi noted that some patients require a ventilator.

Dern recently heard a story about a boy who collapsed in a parking lot after he consumed the equivalent of 20-plus cigarettes while vaping with friends. Dern also knows a teen who was rushed to the emergency room and treated for "popcorn lung." The term "popcorn lung" comes from an illness workers at a microwave popcorn factory developed nearly two decades ago: a condition called bronchiolitis obliterans. Several were so ill they were referred for lung transplants.

“These kids have no concept of how much nicotine they’re getting. Not to mention the chemicals and heavy metals in the devices,” Dern said. “It’s absolutely terrifying.”