The Biggest Parenting Power Struggle Neil Patrick Harris Faces, and How He Works Through It
The multihyphenate father of two talks parenting, hosting kid-friendly parties, healthy snacks, and more.
Neil Patrick Harris has worn many, many hats—literally and figuratively—in his years as an actor, host, comedian, and more, but these days, he may be wearing the parenting hat most often.
Real Simple caught up with the Doogie Howser, M.D. and A Series of Unfortunate Events star at the launch of Jif Power Ups, a whole new snack from the tried-and-true peanut butter brand that combines the healthy ingredients moms want with the creamy, crunchy taste kids want. Harris talked tips and tricks for getting his seven-year-old twins with husband David Burtka (Harper and Gideon) to eat well, the family’s iconic Halloween costumes, and more:
Real Simple: Jif Power Ups are intended to help reduce the parent-child power struggles at snack time—can you name a power struggle you often face in your home?
Neil Patrick Harris: Right now the kids just want sugar. The power struggle is just telling them that sugar’s not an option. I try to be as intellectual about it as possible: ‘If you eat a lot of sugar right now, you’re just going to go crazy. And act crazy. And then we’ll be telling you to stop acting so crazy, and then you’re going to crash, because you’ve just exhausted yourself, and that will just be no fun for you either way.’ So that’s the struggle.
RS: Does taking the intellectual route work?
NPH: [Laughs] No, it doesn’t tend to work. Because kids like sugar. So it’s just a matter of trying to time it [right]. But it’s better to have smaller and healthier meals and decent energy throughout the day. We all have better manners when that happens.
RS: What are the kids watching these days?
NPH: The kids watch as much stuff as we’ll let them. I just did A Series of Unfortunate Events and they watched all of those, loved them, and now they’re starting to read the books, which is fantastic. They banged through all the Harry Potters, banged through all the Star Wars. We just saw The Incredibles 2—I highly recommend it. We’re big movie buffs.
RS: Your family is known for going all-in on Halloween costumes. How do you get your kids to join in?
NPH: The first few years we did the Halloween costumes, they played along because they didn’t know what was happening. Then, for the past couple of years, they’ve been very resistant to whatever it is we want to do, because they just want to do something different to get their way. Now it’s much more of a complicated negotiation. They appreciate what the whole plan is, and they kind of understand what the Instagram means. They have to promise they’re not going to change their minds, all for a picture. This may crash and burn in the next couple years; we may abandon this ship pretty quickly.
RS: What about entertaining? Do you have any tricks for hosting a party that kids and adults alike will enjoy?
NPH: For parties involving kids, it’s good to have activities that the kids can do that aren’t super, super messy and fold [them] into an adult party so, when kids needs to split, the adults can still stay. But to force kids to act like adults at a party is ridiculous, and I think most adults like to do kid activities, so maybe [have] more things to play with and to do.