'OITNB' 's Dascha Polanco Says She's a 'Free-Range Parent': I'm 'Creating Gender-Neutral Homes'

OITNB star Dascha Polanco tells PEOPLE her son Aryam, 9, and daughter Dasany, 16, "will be independent and successful, yet [have] rules"

Dascha Polanco is raising her kids to be free thinkers — but with some boundaries.

“I may not say strict, but I am going to say that I am a free-range parent,” the 35-year-old mother to son Aryam, 9, and daughter Dasany Kristal, 16, tells PEOPLE’s Celeb Parents Get Real.

“Not that my kids are going to run around like chickens and hens, but that they will be independent and successful, yet [have] rules,” adds the Orange Is the New Black star, “because I am the parent and always embracing their individuality and creating gender-neutral homes.”

She jokes, “Wow, isn’t that trendy?”

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Polanco considers culture a “very important” ingredient in the lessons she’s passing on to her children.

“Coming from the Dominican Republic, I do instill in them our culture, language, music and confidence,” she says. “I was the most beautiful thing for my mom. She loved my legs, she loved how alive I was and how ‘viva, viva, viva’ I was, meaning ‘alive’ in Spanish, and that is what I love sharing [with] my kids.”

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Building her children’s confidence is near and dear to the star, who says seeing them make mistakes and grow is a “rewarding” experience.

“That is the most rewarding — for them to turn around and say, ‘Oh, I don’t want to leave to college because I love you, Mom’ and I’m like, ‘No, you’re leaving, bye,’ ” Polanco explains.

“And my son saying, ‘Mom, I love you so much, I think you’re so beautiful‘ but when I ask him, ‘Do I look fat?’ and he’s like, ‘You’re not fat, you just have a big butt,’ and I’m like, ‘I love you baby, you’re so cute.’ That kind of stuff — they build my confidence, I build theirs.”

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