Hilary Duff doesn't care if you have an issue with the way she parents.
The "How I Met Your Father" star and mom of three is certainly no stranger to unsolicited criticism. From being shamed by some for kissing her now 10-year-old son, Luca, on the lips, to fans taking issue with the 34-year-old posing nude on the cover of Women's Health, people aren't afraid to tell her how they feel about even her most innocuous personal parenting decisions.
"Every family gets the opportunity to make their own goals and what works for them, and everybody else needs to shut their mouth," Duff told TODAY Parents. "Aren't we all going through enough? Why does anyone have the nerve to comment on somebody else's family?"
After landing her first television role in 1993, Duff has spent decades fortifying a thick enough skin to let all the criticism just role off her back. ("I think 'the weird ones' are the ones that looked into that and thought it was weird," Duff says of "kissgate.")
Now, along with her husband, Matthew Koma, Duff is passing on that resiliency to her three kids, Luca Cruz, 10, Banks Violet, 2, and Mae James, 1.
"I feel like everybody else right now — a little worn down and powerless, for sure, and like my voice doesn't matter," she explained. "But I do know that in my house my voice does matter, and that is my purpose on this Earth right now — raising my kids to be good people; to be confident and kind people who have a well-rounded understanding of others and the world around them. I know that is my most important job and that's where I have strength and power."
For Duff, raising resilient children means, among many other things, raising kids who love to learn and read. Recently, Duff partnered with Epic Books, a digital library for kids, parents and educators, to encourage more children and their parents to spend time with a book (or two).
"Obviously we love books and our bookshelf at home is crazy," she said. "But being on the go and traveling as much as we do, using the app was such a great way to keep (my kids) reading — you can travel so many places through books and have so many epic adventures."
Fostering a love of books in her home is especially important to the "Lizzie McGuire" star at a time when school districts across the country are banning books that discuss race and LGBTQ+ issues.
"I don't know what we're protecting (kids from), except for avoiding some really great conversations that can be had between households and families," she added. "Reading can help everybody move forward with kindness and acceptance of one another."
Resiliency is also baked into her children's names, Duff shares.
"I have to admit, the names that I gave my kids are not family names," she explained. "We just wanted something that we all loved and wanted to say over and over and over again and that we felt would turn them into the kind of kids that we want them to be."
For her daughter, Banks, Duff said she wanted a "strong name, almost like a last name for a first name," since Banks was her first daughter.
"We were also living in SoHo at the time, and there was an event for a girl in prison for drawing or writing," Duff adds. "We were walking to dinner one night and saw it and I said, 'Oh my gosh. We have to go with that name — it's perfect.'"
For her firstborn, Luca, Duff says the universe gave her his name during a flight with her ex-husband, Mike Comrie, to Italy.
"He saw Lucca on the map and I was like, 'I really love that name,'" she shared. "We spelled it differently, but it was a universal name you know. We didn't know if we were having boy or girl, but either way we would have still chosen that name."
It was the newest addition to the family, "Mae Mae," who threw Duff for a loop. The actor was convinced she was having a boy, she says, and had one specific name picked up all the way up to the moment she delivered and realized Mae was actually a girl.
"When she came out, I was completely shocked," she explained. "We had a boy name picked out, and it was going to be Otto because I love 'The Diary of Anne Frank.' The dad's name, who got her book published, was Otto Franklin, who was really good man. So then we were kind of scrambling at the last minute and both of our moms were born in May. So we went with Mae Mae."
Armed with powerful names, a lot of reading and learning time and a lesson or two from a mom who has grown up in the harsh spotlight of Hollywood, Duff is confident that regardless of what the future holds, her children will be strong, intelligent, empathetic leaders — especially since, she says, she's not afraid to follow their lead from time to time, too.
"I'm really trying to learn from them, too," she said. "I think that's one of the biggest things — letting them guide you, too."