My mother’s unconventional parenting lessons

An old photo of Richard Branson playing in water with his mother Eve Branson
Image from
Virgin Galactic
Richard Branson's signature
Published on 28 July 2016

When I was child, my mother, Eve, used some interesting techniques to prepare me for the future. Believe it or not, despite all appearances I have always been naturally shy. When I was a young boy, I would often refuse to talk to adults, and cling to the back of my mother’s skirt. As an introverted kid, my mother worried my shyness would become debilitating as I got older. So, to nip it in the bud, she continuously challenged me.

She tried to drum it out of me by explaining that shyness is a form of selfishness. She’d tell me that being shy was merely thinking of oneself, rather than wanting to make other people happy. To bring me out of my shell, she’d encourage me and my sisters to perform skits and entertain our parent’s friends at dinner parties.

When I turned six or so, she decided that this behaviour was no longer acceptable, and after a shopping trip to a nearby village, stopped the car about three miles from home and let me out. She told me that I’d have to find my own way home by talking to people to ask for directions. By the time I arrived, many hours later, she was very apoplectic – she had not accounted for time to stop to look at bugs and inspect rocks. But it worked. I started to become more comfortable interacting with adults and expressing myself.

Richard Branson as a young boy chopping down a tree
Image from

While some people would call her methods questionable – and I am by no means urging people to follow her example, as now we live in a very different world to the one I grow up in – they taught me what I consider to be life’s greatest lesson: growth happens when you put yourself outside your comfort zone.

My shyness has never disappeared completely – I still get nervous from time to time – however, I am also the first person to say yes and tackle my fears head-on. This approach to challenges has allowed me to chart an exciting path in life and in business, so I will be eternally grateful to my mother.

Eve and Richard Branson hugging
Branson family

The reason I’m talking about her unconventional parenting style, is because BAD MOMS (a film worked on by our wonderful team at Virgin Produced) opens in cinemas today, with a number of themes that took me for a walk down memory lane. My mother was by no means a ‘Bad Mom’. She was a fantastic role-model and champion, who inspired me and my sisters to stand on our own feet and persevere in the face of testing situations. Bad Moms’ hilarious script and wonderful comediennes deliver similar heartfelt messages and life lessons. It’s a delightful film, which I encourage everyone to see.

Bad Moms cast at an awards ceremony
Image from Jason Felts / Virgin Produced

Did your mother (or father) have an unconventional method of parenting? What important life lesson did you learn?