On the surface, Joanna Gaines appears to lead the perfect life. From Gaines' mega-popular show, Fixer Upper, to her glossy Instagram feed, it's easy to assume that things have always been easy for her. But what many fans don't know is that Gaines has experienced a lot of pain throughout her 39 years, especially where it concerns her childhood. In an interview with Darling magazine, Joanna Gaines revealed that she was bullied as a child, and she opened up about how these hurtful experiences have shaped her parenting. And if you're a fan of Gaines and are also conscious about instilling kindness in your kids, there's a good chance you'll want to read her thoughts on this important topic.
If you've followed Gaines from the jump, then you know that it's rare for her to open up about her personal life. Joanna and her husband, Chip Gaines, are more private than they are public, despite the fact that their faces are constantly on HGTV and in magazines. And when you consider how private Gaines can be (it's one of the rumored reasons she's leaving Fixer Upper), it's a bit surprising that she got candid about such a personal subject like bullying. Although it probably wasn't easy for Gaines to open up about the painful topic, it's so important she's bringing awareness to something so many kids experience every day.
Although it might be surprising to learn now, Gaines struggled with insecurity and self-doubt before she became a household name. Sadly, these issues stemmed from classmates teasing Gaines for being Asian.
Gaines explained, according to PEOPLE:
If you haven’t heard my story, my mom is full Korean and my dad is Caucasian. Kids in kindergarten would make fun of me for being Asian and when you’re that age you don’t know really how to process that; the way you take that is, ‘Who I am isn’t good enough.’
To make matters even more difficult, Gaines' family moved around a lot. Following a move to Texas, Gaines struggled with fitting in and making friends. But most of all, Gaines grappled with not feeling secure in her own identity.
Gaines shared, according to Closer Weekly:
In the lunchroom everyone was a blur and I was thinking, ‘How do people do this? How do you find that one person to sit with?' So I literally walked in the lunchroom and walked out and went into the bathroom. My fear and my insecurities just took over and I felt like I’d way rather sit in the stall than get rejected.”
And as an adult, Gaines spent a lot of time reflecting on where she fit in and her purpose in the world. Luckily for Gaines, uprooting her life to New York City gave her the space and time she needed to find out who she really is.
Gaines revealed, according to PEOPLE:
I was by myself again where it was just me in a big city, and I remember that came back up again — just the thought of, ‘Am I good enough?' For six months I wrestled with my identity and the themes of, ‘Who am I?’ and ‘What’s my purpose?’… and I kept remembering that time in the bathroom.
But how does Gaines' struggle as a kid relate to her parenting today?
Gaines explained, according to Us Weekly:
I always tell my kids to look for that kid on the playground who’s not playing with anybody, to go reach out, ask them their name, to look for the kid in the lunchroom who isn’t sitting by anybody, be their friend. That experience grounded me in that I want to look for the lonely, the sad, the people who aren’t confident, because that’s not where they’re supposed to stay.
What's important to note about Gaines' parenting here is that she gives her kids tangible ways to practice kindness. Although it's easy to tell your kids to "be nice," children often need to be reminded that kindness is an action and not simply a character trait.
In fact, a study conducted by Harvard researchers found that parents have to be conscious about teaching their kids kindness and practicing compassion at home. For example, researchers recommend that parents teach their kids how to be active listeners and how to manage negative feelings so they don't take their frustrations out on others, according to The Washington Post. Experts also advise parents be active role models for their kids, so they can see what kindness sounds and looks like in the real world.
And, of course, Gaines' admission that she was bullied for being Asian is a crucial reminder that kids need to be educated on diversity, overt racism as well as microaggressions and subconscious bias, and cultural awareness at a young age. Having open discussions and being transparent about these issues will help children become sensitive adults.
In my opinion, Gaines deserves a lot of praise for drawing attention to the issue of bullying and for reiterating that compassion is something that is taught. Given the current political climate, I can't think of a more appropriate time to have this important discussion.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.