Why Sarah Jessica Parker’s Impoverished Childhood Means She Wants Her Kids to ‘Yearn’ for Material Things

10/12/2016 at 01:30 PM ET

Sarah Jessica Parker Divorce Kids Jess Cagle Interview

From her turn as the iconic Carrie Bradshaw on Sex and the City to her newest role as protagonist Frances in the HBO dramedy DivorceSarah Jessica Parker has become a household name over the duration of her 30-plus-year career.

But before she hit the big time, the actress and mother of three had a humbling upbringing, far away from the limelight, in Cincinnati, Ohio.

“I think my mother is sorry that there were things she couldn’t give us, but I work hard to be as depriving to my children as my mother was … meaning I like to withhold things from my children,” Parker told PEOPLE and Entertainment Weekly Editorial Director Jess Cagle of how her childhood has influenced how she and husband Matthew Broderick are raising their kids: 7-year-old twin daughters Tabitha and Loretta and son James, 13.

“Things they want, I think they should yearn for, and in some cases, as my son gets older, I think he should earn,” adds Parker, 51. “I think it’s good to pine for something so that when you get it, it has such meaning. You aren’t casual about the possession.”

Watch the full episode of The Jess Cagle Interview, available now on the new People/Entertainment Weekly Network (PEN). Go to PEOPLE.com/PEN, or download the PEN app on Apple TV, Roku Players, Amazon Fire TV, Xumo, Chromecast, iOS and Android devices.

One of eight children herself, Parker understands that the household chaos in her past was just a part of life — and that her own parents did their jobs well in teaching her the value of possession.

“For the most part, we had everything we needed — not always, but for the most part,” she says. “Not having everything you want is a blessing. I think wanting is a great gift.”

“I know my parents did the best they could,” Parker continues. “I never thought they were lazy or being cavalier, so I’m not resentful.”

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Someone is in a hurry. X, sj #riptide2016

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“I think the things my mom says now about the time is she’s sorry that there was chaos, and I’m sure she wouldn’t have wanted us to lay in bed and worry, but I think there were advantages in my experience for me for that,” Parker says.

But although the actress can see the advantages of childhood worry when it comes to herself, in general, she has a different outlook.

“I don’t think it’s good for children to worry and lay in bed,” she adds. “I think it’s really hard.”

Jen Juneau

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Susan H on

There is a huge difference between want and need. We need food, clothes, shelter, discipline and love…it may not be designer stuff or 5 star dinners but if it all comes with love that is what matters. We want cell phones, iPads, designer dudes and it doesn’t hurt to do chores to earn that $$. Great job by not spoiling your kids that way, if anything Hollywood kids are proof it doesn’t work

Marble on

I’ve noticed over the years how much SJP speaks about struggle as a virtue and entitlement as a problem. It’s rare that a celebrity who has been a celebrity for as long as she has would even think to talk about withholding material things, it says something about her character that she hasn’t forgot what its like. Good Momming SJP!

tellmemore on

I just love her, and I totally agree with her. I don’t think the kids who get everything they want exactly when they want it really appreciate what they have. No, kids shouldn’t have to worry about bills or having enough to eat, but that doesn’t mean they need to have everything they wish for. I came from a similar background as SJP although, fortunately, my family didn’t have to go without basic necessities, like I think hers sometimes did. But it taught me that I have to work for what I want. I think it builds character. And the fact that she can now afford to give her kids anything but tries to teach them the value of work and delayed gratification is so refreshing.

whatstrulyimportant on

Her choice of words is interesting, but I agree with the general principle. Kids should learn to moderate their ‘wants’, and learn to distinguish what’s really worth spending resources on. Every piece of junk on the shelves and the latest toy or smart phone aren’t necessities, or a lasting source of satisfaction and appreciation, even for many adults.

guest on

I think her comments are interesting and I agree on her description of needs and want. I also think she is a good actress.

9623612 on


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