Actor and comedian Kel Mitchell is best known for his work as a young Nickelodeon star, but at home, he’s just Dad. Along with being a husband, he’s a father to four children ranging in age from 1 to 22, not to mention a pastor devoted to empowering others through his faith. Mitchell has also written a self-help book called Blessed Mode, which is presented as a challenge for readers to increase their faith and place more focus on their blessings.
Also keeping Mitchell busy is his role as an executive producer on the reboot of his old series All That. The original show paved the way for a slew of spin-offs, including Kenan & Kel and Good Burger, which solidified Mitchell’s place in pop culture.
We caught up with the Emmy-nominated actor and stand-up comedian to chat about parenting during the pandemic and the luxury of squeezing in time to himself in the wee hours of the morning.
What’s your approach to parenting?
My approach starts with understanding where my kids are at the moment. Their likes, dislikes, what’s exciting to them. Being a dad, but understanding I was once a kid once too [laughs].
You have older kids and younger ones. What’s been the biggest difference in parenting the different generations and genders?
With daughters, I’m the type of dad who says, "Whatever you want." I had to work on that [laughs]. They were starting to [catch on] and now I make sure me and my wife are on the same page. It’s teamwork as parents!
How do you carve out time for yourself?
I get up very early. I have young adults and toddlers — I have a 1-year-old, 4-year-old, 20-year-old and 22-year-old) and I’m also a husband and I work. So I look at my schedule and get up before anyone. I pray, meditate and work out before anyone wakes up. It definitely has helped me as a dad, having that time to prepare for the day. You never know what’s going to come up, with jobs, diapers, all kinds of stuff.
What was parenting for you like during the pandemic?
We had a lot of time together, which I enjoyed — all of us together, a lot of game nights, a lot of conversations instead of everyone out doing their own activities. It was more about family time and it made us even stronger. We had a baby during the pandemic [laughs] and I was able to write the book. A lot happened — but we kept the joy during a crazy time.
Is there anything that blew your mind about parenting?
You can't prepare for it [laughs]. There’s no blueprint. I talk about parenting being like stand-up: You’ve just got to get on stage and get in front of that audience! Every audience is different, and it’s the same with parenting: Every child is different. The cool thing about being a parent is finding the right approach; that individuality is beautiful. Everyone is made differently and thinks differently.
Since you’ve been a dad for a while, do friends turn to you for advice and if so, what do you tell them?
I tell them to listen. See where they’re coming from. Kids go through so much and I want to understand where they’re coming from. Ask them what they’re feeling, have empathy for them and recognize they’re their own person and you’re raising them to be adults at some point. But also, don't be so hard on yourself! Don't beat yourself up for making a mistake.
To that point, how do you tune out parent-shamers?
Tune it out! You don't have to respond. As a celebrity, people comment all the time, but you don't need to respond to trolls.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
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