Parenting two kids the same age at one time is a challenging task for any parent. But Jerry O’Connell says that he and wife Rebecca Romijn’s first priority is to make sure their daughters are grounded people.
“The first thing we try to do is just make them polite. I’m not even joking. That really goes a long way,” the Love Locks actor tells PEOPLE and Entertainment Weekly Editorial Director Jess Cagle.
“When they meet people, looking them in the eye and greeting them. Saying their name. Saying thank you,” continues O’Connell, 42. “Saying please. As simplistic as that sounds, it’s really important. It’s a great foundation to start from.”
Dolly Rebecca Rose and Charlie Tamara Tulip, 8, are also being raised to be thankful for what they have. “After that, I want to make sure my kids have gratitude,” adds their dad. “They’re pretty privileged. We live in a beautiful suburb of Los Angeles. The craziest thing we have to deal with is traffic.”
“I’ve looked into volunteering places and such, [but] my job is not nearly done yet. I want to make sure they have gratitude,” O’Connell continues. “I think if they understand that and I think if they have gratitude, I think a lot more will follow.”
The actor notes that it’s also important that Charlie and Dolly take care of their responsibilities — and stay away from social media situations that could be potentially dangerous at such a young age.
“I tell them, ‘You can’t chat with anybody on there,’ ” he says of Roblox, an app his girls are a fan of. “They’re like, ‘Oh, people are trying to talk to me.’ I’m like, ‘You can’t talk to any of them. Like, don’t make me watch Dateline with you. This is how it starts.’ “
O’Connell touches on the fact that he named his daughter Dolly after Dolly Parton, and that the legendary entertainer sent his girls a very generous gift when they were born.
“We said we named one of our daughters Dolly after Dolly Parton, and she sent both of our kids a $500 bond when they were born,” he says. “She’s the best.”
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And one of his girls is starting to take an interest in boys already — something the father of two confesses he tries to pawn off on Romijn.
“I have one daughter who’s boy crazy, who talks about boys all the time. I’m like, ‘Listen, you can do all that when I’m dead, when I die,’ ” he jokes. “I mean, she’s 8 and she’s like, ‘There’s this boy … ‘ I’m like, ‘Talk to your mom about it please. La la la. I don’t want to hear it.’ “
Cagle then surprises O’Connell with a very special gift: a Barbie-brand replica of the actor, as part of PEOPLE’s campaign about dads and their daughters.
“Is this for me to play with or my kids to play with?” O’Connell jokes.
“That’s for you to decide. Whatever is appropriate,” Cagle replies.
“There we go. That’s me,” says O’Connell upon opening the package. ” ‘Remember kids, eat your protein and be polite. Always look [people] in the eye and say your name. Hi. Hi Mr. Cagle, nice to meet you.’ That is me.”
O’Connell confesses that Barbies were never a thing around his house when he was a child, since he grew up with just a brother.
“I never had girls. That was all new to me. It’s still is new to me. Girls are, like … my daughters can get emotional,” he shares.
“Maybe now I’ll talk to them through my new Mattel doll, the new Mattel Jerry doll,” he jokes. ” ‘Girls, tell me what you’re feeling. Tell Daddy doll what you’re feeling. How are you?’ “