The parenting style of Will and Jada Smith which produced such eccentric children has always been curious and sometimes even controversial. That gets broken down, to a point, this episode.
Understanding Where Will and Jada Came From: Adrienne, Jada
One of the things which has to be realized is, the generational wealth that it seems Jada and Will created for their kids, they had to work hard to get that. For Will, before he was the Fresh Prince, the rapper or of Bel Air, he was doing blue collar work. Also, he came from what is alluded to be an abusive household. So on top of the need for money, there was also this drive to escape a situation which wasn’t mentally or emotionally healthy.
As for Jada, yes Adrienne may have grown in a Black middle-class home with a father who was an anesthesiologist and mom who was a social worker. However, at 18 she had a kid and had a drug addiction. Now, she was a functioning addict but an addict just the same. Which made it so Jada was exposed to that and also was given a loose chain. One which allowed her to hustle drugs and have the kind of freedom which was foreign to Adrienne growing up.
But, backtracking a bit, we also got to take note of the “loose chain” idea. For while Jada may not have had a huge amount of oversight, she was still Adrienne’s daughter. That ownership came with expectations, rules, and a certain amount of oppression. Which, all things considered, prepped Jada to be in LA at 18 and become the woman she is today. However, at the same time, she recognized that was not going to be the way she raised her kids.
One of the things which come up often on Red Table Talk is how things are seen different or changed within generations. And one of the pulls when it comes to the mystique of the Smith household is how different they are despite Jada coming from a rough part of Baltimore and Will not necessarily being suburban raised either. Yet, here they are with children who are very LA, very eccentric but don’t necessarily fit the full vision you have.
Yes, both are eccentric in such a way that having limited access to their parents’ wealth affords but you also have to take into consideration this is what that wealth is for. As Jaden notes, they, Will and Jada, had to have a soldier’s mentality of survival and work ethic to get to this point. So when it came to Willow and Jaden, they passed on what they knew. This is how they got rich, famous, and felt they have obtained some form of security, so you do it too. We don’t want for you what we grew up with and that is something Jada mentions.
She brings up the idea of trying to heal childhood trauma through her children. Hence why she wanted to be such an active mom because her mom didn’t have the ability to do so. Adrienne couldn’t bring Jada to work but Jada could do that with her kids. She could even bring a certain amount of shelter to their lives by having them homeschooled. And as for how Will used his privilege to shelter the kids? Well, that brings us to the next point.
How That Affected Willow: Willow, Jada, Adrienne
“Whip My Hair,” and that whole era, is brought up a lot for it was a very transformative time for Willow. While she was the daughter of famous people, she wasn’t famous based off her own merit – for a lack of a better way to put it. Take, for example, how Zoe Kravitz is famous as an actress, singer to a point too, vs. Paris Jackson. Stepping into the world which your parent gained their notoriety brings about expectations because you are creating a dynasty. One which makes it so, with Will Smith as your dad, you have access to people like Jay-Z and Beyoncé as mentors and take on all that means.
Which includes a bit of their own trauma, I’d argue, for Will is seeing legacy, they are seeing money, and then there is this kid who just saw an opportunity to express themselves with the tools made familiar. Mom sings in rock music, dad a rapper, and with Willow being young and close to her family, naturally, there is this idea of following in their footsteps. Yet, the problem is, or maybe not even a problem but one thing that had to be factored is Willow had no need to be a hustler.
Unlike a lot of child stars, it wasn’t like if “Whip My Hair” wasn’t followed by a platinum album and sold-out tours, that could mean the family wouldn’t be eating. In comparison to other new artists, she didn’t have the kind of deal with could basically ruin her if she didn’t produce. Yet, she had the same kind of people around her who thought in dollar bills more than craft. And if there is one thing Will and Jada instilled in their kids is perfecting the craft.
Hence her deciding to rebel in a multitude of ways. One of which was the cutting, but also shaving her head and, I should add, it wasn’t just the music industry. Having rich and famous people as parents led to moochers as well. People who expected Willow to pay for things and for Jaden that really messed him up, because of the example Will set, but for Willow it just created this wall people had to climb over.
Don’t you love how everything sort of links up together with these conversations? Wasn’t Gabrielle Union’s piece about toxic people like the later years version of what Willow said? That aside, it is curious to recognize how, even with the best intentions and people who know how to make hits and big names, Willow was able to vocalize and note this wasn’t for her. Not to mention, considering the lives Jada and Will had, them having it in themselves to let her quit.
Because, bringing up Jaden’s soldier comment and how work ethic is a big thing in the family, imagine what it had to take to say you wanted to quit something that is the family business. Not to mention, Will and Jada having to not only accept this, but have those conversations with Jay-Z and others about Willow not wanting to do music anymore. Since that, in my mind, is awkward.
After all, people would do anything for access like this and a kid becoming big and walking away? There is a certain amount of privilege in that which could be taken the wrong way. Yet, one thing Jada has always pushed is the idea of her not owning her kids. Meaning, they don’t want to do it, she supports them wholeheartedly. For what she is doing is raising adults and not kids. Hence why Willow may have her teen moments here and there, but she has this maturity that a lot of young women aren’t given enough credit for.
How That Affected Jaden: Jada, Jaden, Adrienne
With Jaden being Jada’s firstborn, naturally, the attachment was strong. Yet, like with Willow, Jaden was allowed to have autonomy and was raised to be an adult. There wasn’t the whole, as Adrienne would do with them, “because I said so” stuff. The same communication we see at the red table existed when Jaden was 8. Which is why Jaden has been capable of being so comfortable with himself. When you have a mother which lets you be you and supports that? Including, when Jaden went to pre-school, staying in the parking lot because Jaden thought the people there didn’t care or love him, that is powerful.
And with that power, hence why Jaden is capable of wearing skirts, forming companies, and even moving out when he was 15. Because he was empowered, he found ways to make a life for himself outside of his parents. For as much as what Jada says might sound like coddling, more so it is providing a safety net to try things and fail. Because he knows his mom has his back, what does he have to fear? Even if his dad or the general public may not understand him – because it didn’t sound like Will was all that for the Louis Vuitton skirt thing at all.
But, don’t get it twisted, with great freedom comes a lot of responsibility and while the kids were given a lot of trust and empowerment, with that came the fear of disappointing their parents. Something which Willow said keeps her in line.
One of the main takeaways from Jaden and Willow speaking is how important it is to listen to your kids when they say they aren’t happy or comfortable. You can’t prevent every last bit of trauma and, as Willow noted, you can produce the environment to cause it. However, what you can absolutely prevent is it lasting after your child speaks up. Jaden didn’t feel comfortable at that preschool, Jada pushed him, and after awhile she took him out. Willow no longer felt comfortable with the industry, at the level she was, and the people outside of her parents and perhaps their circle, so she was taken out.
Knowing your parents have your back even when it requires awkward conversations and sometimes trusting you on your word, that means everything to a child. Especially if you are going to raise them in a Jada or Will fashion. For you can’t just have it be, you have autonomy at home and when it is convenient for me. It has to apply to nearly all things while recognizing, while you are raising an adult, sometimes you’ll have to step in when they decide they need to have a teenager or kid moment.
Hence why, even though it seemed neither were necessarily fond of Adrienne’s style of parenting, they appreciated it to a point. Because freedom is beautiful but boundaries are necessary. And while I’m sure Will felt tested with the skirt thing and Adrienne with how Willow does a lot of things, these tests were to figure themselves out and not to test their parent’s patience because they weren’t stifled. For the boundaries were made for safety and not control, nor Jada or Will enforcing the full strength of their expectations.
Thus giving us the basis for the Will and Jada parenting technique – Not meant as a general way to raise any and all children.
Question(s) Left Unanswered
- To what degree was Will uncomfortable with Jaden being in a skirt? Also, what were other things he and Jada clashed on when it came to parenting these two?
- Anyone else wonder if Willow and Jaden were treated differently, at all or was that not played in the Smith household?
- What abuse was going on in Will’s household?
The Real You
It was kind of interesting to hear, despite social media and all that, when it comes to Willow and Jaden’s understanding of their parents, it remains kind of in that pre-teen role. Not to the point of thinking their parents are all knowing gods but definitely where their flaws and the negative things they have done in their life aren’t well known to them.
- Showing the importance of communication in terms of not just hearing, and maybe just listening, but putting action behind that. Such as, when Willow said she wasn’t comfortable, putting into action what was needed to not burn bridges but get her out of the industry.
- It being shown that there is no one way that is perfect for parenting. Adrienne may not have brought up Jada in an ideal form, but look how well she turned out. Same goes for Will. There might have been abuse in his household but that didn’t mean he was going to carry that over. Pushing the idea of not just doing better than what you knew, and making the best of a bad situation, but also not letting issues that have carried over generation to generation to keep perpetuating itself.
- Jaden talking about the soldier mentality and how, because that was all Will and Jada knew, they taught Willow and Jaden the same thing. Which, for Willow, was a bit too much and when it came to filming, The Karate Kid, worried the heck out of Jada, but it instilled in them values and a work ethic. Making it so they wouldn’t take things on frivolously.
- How Willow and Jaden talking about being targets and having to take note of people and what they said and do linked with Gabrielle Union’s episode dealing with toxic people. For you can start to build up how something could of went left for the kids with nearly every conversation that is had. Whether it includes them or not.
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