Not too long ago, many questioned the Smith’s child-rearing practices, especially as we watched both Willow Jaden repeatedly go against the grain on a number of occasions. From waxing poetic about everything from school (they said it was overrated) to meditation to science, and beyond. Their maturity and independent spirit made them a target for the mainstream. But it’s clear from the latest episode of Red Table Talk that Willow and Jaden turned out just fine, thanks to their parents’ unconventional style.
It wasn’t always smooth sailing, though, as Pinkett Smith’s mother, Adrienne Banfield-Norris, said during the show, she didn’t always agree with her daughter’s parenting practices.
“I felt like you guys had too much say over your own lives,” Banfield-Norris told her grandchildren, explaining that she was used to the “old school” way to raise children. “Their idea of parenting is so different from what I was used to. I was like, ‘These people are crazy.’”
While Pinkett Smith joked the world also thought they were crazy (and admitted she and Will would “go to war” over how to raise Jaden), she said her ultimate goal was to prepare her children for the world — not treat them like they were her property.
“I don’t want to make decisions for you,” Pinkett Smith said. “I want to prepare you as quick as possible and start to give you as much power over your life as quickly as I can.”
Though the actor hoped to empower her children, when Jaden wanted to move out at just 15-years-old, Pinkett Smith said it was “one of the most heartbreaking moments” of her life. Despite this, she didn’t stand in his way.
“I remember thinking to myself, as devastated as I was, I was like, he’s right,” the actor admitted. “The time is now. He’s 15, the time is right.”
Being a parent is extremely difficult. Ensuring your children have proper boundaries, while also giving them the freedom to grow, express themselves, and make decisions on their own (even if you don’t agree) is essential to their development. For Black parents, who not only have to prepare their children to be responsible adults but also for the world that still judges people on the color of their skin, the stakes are even higher.
Still, allowing our children to be seen and heard, while also reevaluating our longstanding views on discipline, can result in children who are creative, ambitious, hard-working, and happy. Though Will and Jada have seemed to crack the code, Pinkett Smith said she’s not trying to tell other people how to raise their kids, but she does want them to know they have the ability to do things differently.
“To think that I could ever go into the world and tell anybody else how they should raise their children, I’ve learned that’s an absolute no-no,” she said. “But I feel that people should have the freedom to look at their kids and decide for themselves what their children need, versus what the school system might be telling you, to go by your own instincts and it doesn’t have to look like what everybody else is [doing].”
While parenting is an amazing experience, it’s also fraught with stress, worry, and heaps of self-doubt. Parents are often hard on themselves and agonize over every decision. Because of this, Pinkett Smith also had another important message for fellow parents: cut yourself some slack.
“Parents have to give themselves much more forgiveness,” she explained. “When you become a parent, you have these huge ideals, even for yourself. Because we’re all coming into parenting with our own childhood traumas and you’re hoping you can fix all that through your own rearing of your children, and you can’t.”
We definitely agree.