Parenting Lessons Meghan Markle and Prince Harry Can Learn From Prince William and Kate Middleton

Should the Duke and Duchess of Sussex require some guidance as they navigate their new normal, they've got the perfect resource quite close to home.

By Sarah Grossbart May 06, 2019 3:00 PMTags
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Parenting idols, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have got 'em. 

While the couple haven't exactly been forthcoming about their plans for raising Baby Sussex—or really much of anything surrounding the tot's birth, save for the fact that the seven-pound, three-ounce bundle arrived early Monday morning—the tidbits they've offered about their own upbringings provide at least a hint of what type of mom and dad they envision themselves being. 

Harry, for instance, seems to value the strides his late mom, Princess Diana, made to give him and older brother Prince William a childhood with at least a few hallmarks of normalcy. "She made the decision that no matter what, despite all the difficulties of growing up in that lime light and on that stage, she was going to ensure that both of us had as normal life as possible," he said in the 2017 documentary Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy. "And if that means taking us for a burger every now and then or sneaking us into the cinema, or driving through the country lanes with the roof down in her old school BMW to listen to Enya." 

Meghan, meanwhile, treasured the example her mom Doria Ragland set when it came to charitable endeavors. "My mom's a yoga instructor, but she does social work, as well, and she works specifically with the geriatric community," the actress said, explaining why Ragland made her Glamour list of "The 10 Women Who Changed My Life" that she wrote in 2017. "For me to watch this level of life-long sensitivity to nurturing and caregiving, but at the same time my mom has always been a free spirit. She's got dread locks and a nose ring. She just ran the L.A. Marathon. We can just have so much fun together, and yet, I'll still find so much solace in her support."

The last year or so notwithstanding, Meghan has also spoken in glowing terms about dad Thomas Markle, lauding "the blood, sweat and tears" he put into providing her a bright future. 

But another shining beacon of child rearing exists a little closer to home for the pair, though their move 25 miles down the road to Windsor means they can no longer just pop 'round to their Kensington Palace flat.

Steve Parsons/Pool Photo via AP

With nearly six years and three kids worth of experience, William and Kate Middleton's parenting prowess is so revered Anne Hathaway has admitted to picking up tips from afar by watching them with Prince George, 5, Princess Charlotte, 4, and Prince Louis, 12 months. 

"They get down on the child's level and speak to them eye to eye to make their child feel empowered," she told The Sunday Times of the twosome's habit of crouching down to converse with their kids—something the actress has implemented with 3-year-old son Jonathan Shulman. "I thought that was really cool."

And while we're not saying Harry and Meghan necessarily need guidance, the two having prepared for this moment a number of years as they each individually spoke of their desire to start a family, there are plenty of lessons they could inherit from the Cambridges should they so choose. 

Chris Jelf /Kensington Palace via Getty Images

1. It's possible to carve out a slice of privacy. 
Mark this one down as already noted. Just as William made strides to give future King George and little sis Charlotte a somewhat ordinary existence by spending their early years behind the cast-iron security gates and 12-foot pines of Anmer Hall in the remote village of Norfolk, Harry is making a move to the country. Though Frogmore Cottage, the Sussex's renovated pad on the lush, 35-acre Windsor Castle Home Park is a scant half hour from London, its secluded grounds can provide far more privacy than is on offer in Kensington Palace's gardens.

After Princess Eugenie, who grew up in Windsor with older sis Princess Beatrice, vouched for her idyllic upbringing, Harry and Meghan were sold, a source told Us Weekly, "They want their children to grow up in as normal an environment as possible." 


2. Don't get too stuck on gender roles. 
A big check on this one as well. Both George and Charlotte are said to love football (that's soccer on this side of the pond) and dance lessons with the Cambridges not getting caught up in the idea that boys and girls should stick to certain hobbies. (At barely a year old, Louis is still working on walking with Kate telling the well-wishers gathered at the new V&A Museum in Dundee Scotland he was already a "fast crawler."

It's a way of thinking Meghan seems to subscribe to as well with a Vanity Fair report revealing the avowed feminist, "has been talking to some of her friends about the birth and how she and Harry plan to raise their baby. Her exact word was fluid. She said they plan to raise their child with a fluid approach to gender and they won't be imposing any stereotypes." 

Prince George Is Prince William's Mini-Me

3. Nicknames: They're not just for commoners. 
Well, when your full name is Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana of Cambridge, testing out a shorter version just makes sense. Though a March fan encounter revealed Kate's go-to moniker for her daughter is Lottie, a People report noted the duchess was once spotted telling her middle child, "Get up, Poppet." 

4. Don't be afraid to get dirty. 
Whether it's making pizza in their well-appointed kitchen ("They love it because they can get their hands messy," Kate said at a St Luke's Community Centre event last year) baking ("Chocolate...goes everywhere," she shared of George's style) or going on "spider hunts", the mother of three isn't concerned with keeping things picture perfect. 

Dominic Lipinski/Pool Photo via AP

5. Sometimes you just need to reach out for help. 
While there's no shortage of what to expect type manuals for new parents, the general assumption is that a few years in there's no longer need for training wheels. "Everybody experiences the same struggle," Kate shared during a January visit to the Family Action charity, where she explained the need for the national helpline FamilyLine. "You get a lot of support with the baby years...particularly in the early days up to the age of about one, but after that there isn't a huge amount—lots of books to read." 

But bringing up children is hard even for the gilded set. "Some of this fear is about the pressure to be a perfect parent—pretending we're all coping perfectly and loving every minute of it," she said at a 2017 event for Out of the Blue, a film series from the charity Best Beginnings. "It is right to talk about motherhood as a wonderful thing, but we also need to talk about its stresses and strains. It's OK not to find it easy, and asking for help should not be seen as a sign of weakness."

Chris Jackson/Getty Images

6. Even tiny heirs can be put in their place. 
Okay, this one comes straight from Grandma, but given the existence of photos showing Kate trying to keep it together as she scolds her little ones, we're guessing she's heeded mom Carole Middleton's advice. "I think one of the most important qualities of a good parent is discipline," the Party Pieces entrepreneur shared with U.K.'s The Telegraph in December. "That doesn't mean you're strict, but routine is vital. Maybe structure is a nicer word. You can't suddenly start teaching them about politeness at 13. You have to do it from the start."

7. Pull the plug on excess gadgets. 
Kate and William's trio has no shortage of toys filling their 20-room Kensington Palace pad from dolls to books to George's personal favorite: anything with wheels. But one common childhood plaything is said to be off-limits, with the couple declaring iPads as "Mummy and Daddy's toys, not for children," a source told Us Weekly. "As two people who grew up without gadgets for entertainment themselves, William and Kate are firm believers in toys, outdoor play and encouraging an active imagination." 


8. Sometimes you gotta just hug it out. 
During an October visit to Basildon Sporting Village, Kate warmly accepted an embrace from Janet Emery, a client of Sport for Confidence, which has partnered with coaching apprenticeship Coach Core. "Thank you very much," said the duchess, adding, "Hugs are very important. I keep saying that to my children."

9. A bit of mystery can be a good thing. 
Unlike most parents who can't help but plaster their little ones all over their Insta feeds, William and Kate are selective about sharing photographs of their offspring. Of course, you'd probably be too if you knew your most intimate photos would be viewed by millions rather than just the dozens of family and close friends that dutifully double-tap each image.

In an effort to shield their kids from the spotlight just a little bit, the couple make it a point to reserve official portraits for milestone occasions such as birthdays, christenings, holidays and the first day of school. And rather than splurge on a professional photographer, they rely on Mom's trusty Canon EOS 5D Mark II. 

Chris Jackson/Kensington Palace/Getty Images

10. It's okay to get emotional. 
Long advocates of the importance of mental health, William and Kate make sure to impart their learnings on their littlest ones. "Like most parents today, William and I would not hesitate to seek help for our children if they needed it," Kate wrote in a 2016 blog for HuffPost UK some two years before Louis would make them a family of five. "We hope to encourage George and Charlotte to speak about their feelings, and to give them the tools and sensitivity to be supportive peers to their friends as they get older. We know there is no shame in a young child struggling with their emotions or suffering from a mental illness."

It's a stance her spouse echoed in a blog post for their Heads Together campaign, "I really believe that a child's mental health is just as important as his or her physical health."

11. Parenting can require learning a whole new language.
Thanks to George's obsession with Peppa Pig and Fireman Sam, William is up on cartoon lingo, he shared during a 2017 interview on Radio 1. "You have to pretend you're really interested in it," he admitted, "because George gets very upset if you're not showing due diligence to the characters." 

Prince William and Kate Middleton's Royal Tour of Poland and Germany

12. Manners matter. 
As pint-sized royals, George, Charlotte and Louis will be expected to master the art of shaking hands with dignitaries and waving to their fans. (A move the princess already has down pat.) But when it comes to comportment, Kate makes sure to stress the more traditional behaviors. 

"My parents taught me about the importance of qualities like kindness, respect, and honesty, and I realize how central values like these have been to me throughout my life," the Duchess of Cambridge said while visiting the Mitchell Brook Primary School in 2017. "That is why William and I want to teach our little children, George and Charlotte, just how important these things are as they grow up."

13. Always stress the importance of family. 
Considering Harry's affection for his late mother, this should be an easy one. In the 2017 documentary Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy, William noted he's "constantly talking about Granny Diana," with his children and that he's made it a point to line the four floors of their pad with photos of her. "I do regularly bring George and Charlotte to bed and talk about her," he added. "Just try to remind them there are two grandmas, were two grandmas in their lives and it's important they know who she was and she existed."