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Liv Tyler tells you how to be a better dad
GQ Magazine, May 2017
The actress and mother shares her top parenting tips and thoughts on fatherhood, including anecdotes from her own life and suggestions for how to make your children's lives that little bit more magical
Liv Tyler knows a thing or two about parenthood. She's the mother of three children, an active supporter of Unicef and the star of Gap's new campaign, "Mama Said". We caught up with Tyler to talk all things GQ Dads – including why fathers play such a significant role (but need to stop putting pressure on themselves), the "incredible opportunity" that comes from being a stepparent and why you should be like Steven Tyler and organise a treasure hunt for the little people in your life...
On the importance of fathers "Fathers are very, very important in building the foundations and self-esteem of children. For me, the way that I was raised, consideration, courtesy and manners are really key and I think the father plays a big role in setting an example to children in how to behave out in the world and how to treat people. It's a little bit different when it comes from the dad rather than the mum somehow.
"There are many important elements to being a parent. A lot of people don't have fathers but they might have someone in their life who's a good male influence and support. There's no cookie-cutter way of raising children and no family is the same, but the most important thing is that children are loved, supported and cared for, whether it's coming from a relative or a friend or a grandfather or a good school teacher. Anyone. Children just need good examples and mentoring to teach them and show them how to do things."
On how fatherhood fundamentally changes a man "I've seen beautiful and profound change and growth in men who are becoming fathers. Women get to carry the baby, so you might get a little head start on them, but watching a man get to know the little person, seeing that bond evolve and seeing the difference in the relationship between fathers and their sons and daughters, is fascinating."
On being a stepparent "My family dynamic is quite eccentric. I have two fathers. I think it depends on the relationship between the child and the parents, but definitely, when it comes to being a stepparent or a coparent, it's a different relationship. There's just as much love, but the bonds can be different. It depends when you come into their life and how well you know them – this dynamic takes a lot of patience and love.
"Children are all unique, so when you're blending families it's really important to get to know each individual child... Being a stepparent can be a really incredible opportunity. Sometimes children pay attention and listen to someone who's not their blood parent. Sometimes I notice how my son Milo learns things from my best friends and people that have been around him, his grandparents and so on, in a way he can't from his own mum and dad. It takes a village!"
What Tyler learned from her own dad "My blood father, Steven [Tyler], has a lot of magic in him. Whenever I see him he ignites in me the inspiration to remember to be more playful and magical, especially with small children, to take them on adventures and so on. When you're a parent in the daily grind of life, from working to running the house, it's so tricky sometimes because you don't always get to be in the magic with your children.
"Grandparents can do that in such a nice way. I've never lived with my father full-time, but my memories of him are so unique and special. He was always so present. With my children, he'll do things like make a treasure hunt for them, where he'll bury his skull rings and magic things all over. It's just so fun."
On why you should stop putting pressure on parenting "People are way too hard on themselves. Comparing yourself to other people can be damaging; the most important thing is just to be you and to try to engage with your child. If you're constantly working, so you don't have that much time to spend with them, but you have 20 minutes at the end of the day to read them their favourite book, children will remember that. We put so much pressure on ourselves as parents to be able to do everything, but children are very grateful and understanding. I always find that quality time, even if you just get a little bit, really has a deep impact. But you also need them to know that they can make mistakes, and if they do make a mistake it's OK for them to tell you and that they'll get a second chance."
When Tyler was most proud of David Gardner (father of her two youngest children and stepfather to her first son) "Yesterday we had a school holiday, so David went with the boys to the park and created a little obstacle course for them. One of our children is very sporty and the other isn't, and Sailor is a baby, but somehow all three of them went out and played this game together. I felt so proud of David. The children had so much joy on their faces. Watching them interact and laugh, it was very sweet."
On being famous and a parent at the same time "My children really aren't interested in that part of me at all. Milo has definitely seen Lord Of The Rings and maybe a couple of other things, but they don't think of me in that way. My children don't see [me in magazines and adverts] unless I show them – they just want their mum. I'm the one telling them to brush their teeth and do their homework and get to bed."
Why Tyler got involved with the 'Mama Said' Gap campaign "A friend of mine was in the creative team and they wanted do a special Mother's Day campaign connected to a charity... I came up with the concept alongside the director... But I was super excited to get to be in it as well as be part of the creative concept."