Will and Jada Pinkett Smith have been the target of malicious comments and they have been harshly criticised on several occasions when openly speaking about their parenting techniques. Their unconventional parenting to their three children, Trey Smith – 27, from Will Smith’s ex-wife, Sheree Zampino – Jaden Smith, 21, and Willow Smith, 19 showcases that these two are not your everyday-parents.
Will and Jada Smith don’t even need to explain that they have adopted an unorthodox way of raising their offspring, as actions speak louder than words and we become witnesses of their parenting approach through their children’s sense of freedom to pursue what they desire and just be themselves.
So, what makes the Smiths the cool parents we sometimes wish we had, but at the same time puts them in the spotlight because of some strict criticism? Keep reading to find out more about their unconventional parenting approach.
Every Child Is Different
In one of Jada Pinkett Smith’s interviews to a popular newspaper, she acknowledges something that every parent should: that every child is different and that the parenting style needs to be adapted to suit each child. Even though this statement sounds very basic and easy to understand, many parents don’t practise it and follow the same parenting style for all of their kids.
This approach may have negative consequences, as children in the same family develop independently and express their own unique personality and character; therefore, they need to be allowed to have space to express their individuality.
Jada Smith clearly understands the significance of different parenting approaches for every child, as she admitted that “motherhood is brand new every time”. This realisation helped the actress create a different environment for every child she had, and carefully nurture a unique personality and character for Trey, Jaden, and Willow.
Punishment is a very popular form of discipline; most of the times it seems to be the easy way out for parents who don’t know how to react to their children’s misbehaviour, and the first thing they do is to punish them by banning favourite activities or meeting with friends. Punishment, however, is not the answer for Jada and Will Smith!
The actor revealed in an interview in 2013 that they don’t punish their children, but instead they try to make them take responsibility for their own actions. Will Smith explained that due to his own and his wife’s childhood experiences, punishment has a “negative quality”, and they don’t agree with this concept.
The concept they support is the one of acquiring control over one’s actions and life and also taking responsibility for everything one does, something they try to teach their children from a very young age. Smith also explained that his children can do whatever they want, as long as they can explain why their choice is the correct one for their life at that given moment.
Encouraging Creative Expression
Will and Jada Smith are not the parents who will be embarrassed if their kids mess up or fail while attempting to shape their professional careers. It is evident that the couple allows their children to express their individuality, and they don’t pressure them to fit into society’s norms if that doesn’t make them happy. When the Smith kids interact with the media, the public sees individuals who think out-of-the-box, and who are not afraid to try out new things, even if there is a high chance of being negatively judged.
One example is Jaden’s fashion choices, which many times push the boundaries, and on which Will Smith commented during a radio interview, that it’s a part of his son’s creative and artistic expression. The actor supported his son’s choices, and said that “Jaden is 100% fearless, he will do anything” and that “he doesn’t concern himself with what people think”.
Jaden Smith In A Skirt
What parent would have avoided criticism if their son appeared in a skirt, especially a parent from the celebrity sphere, where every movement is closely monitored? Of course, the Smiths were not spared from harsh criticism about their unorthodox parenting, when Jaden participated in a campaign for the giant fashion brand Louis Vuitton in 2016, where he was photographed dressed in women’s clothing.
It is obvious that, as Will Smith explained about his son’s freedom to express his creativity, Jaden did not hesitate to proceed with the daring project. The young artist makes regular appearances in women’s clothing, supporting a gender-bending lifestyle, and aiming to make a statement about personal freedom for everyone that goes beyond fashion choices.
Jada and Will Smith have been criticised for the “amount” of freedom they allow their children and their “failure” to discipline them so that they don’t escape the norm. However, as mentioned earlier, fitting into the norm is not included in the Smiths parenting techniques!
The “Circle Of Safety”
Every family has its own way of approaching personal matters and communicating sensitive issues; the Smiths created their own “circle of safety”, where the children are encouraged to feel free and talk about their concerns without any judgement. Will Smith revealed this parenting technique while talking with Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show, and explained that they started doing this since the children were very young.
Smith continued by explaining that the “circle of safety” works as a safe space for open conversation, even about “bad things” the children may have done, and that they are allowed to say anything they want without getting into trouble. Despite the freedom in this “circle”, Smith revealed that there is one golden rule: if he and Jada find out after the end of the “circle of safety” that the children have hidden something and didn’t reveal it during this process, then they will be in big trouble!
Treating Their Children As Equals
Normative parenting styles include the model where the parents are higher in the ladder of hierarchy and they expect to be treated by their children as the superiors of the household. This is not the case with the Smiths, who support a different model of parenting, which is deemed unconventional.
The Smiths suggest that in order for a child to grow, there should be a balance within the parent-child relationship, where respect should not be one-sided; not only children are supposed to respect the parents, but also the parents should show the same respect to their kids and treat them like they would treat any other adult.
This interesting idea doesn’t have many fans and is often criticised, however the Smiths embrace it and as the actor explained in an interview, an example of this approach is that they don’t ask their children to clean their rooms, as they wouldn’t ask an adult to do it. They only make them realise that they borrow their room from their parents and they should keep it tidy out of respect. Wow!
Children Have Full Control Over Their Body
When Willow Smith decided to shave her head during her 2010 single hit Whip My Hair tour, Will Smith revealed that after the incident he learned a lot about his role as a father. According to reports, he said that his daughter taught him to carefully listen to what his children want, which made him realise that he needed to adapt his parenting strategies and let her end the tour, like she wanted to.
A girl with a shaved head, however, is not a common “image” in a conventional family, and people started gossiping and criticising the Smiths for not being strict enough, and for letting their daughter cut her hair. That’s when Jada jumped in to support her daughter’s choice with a post on social media. She explained that Willow had every right to cut her hair, simply because it’s HER hair! Jada continued by emphasising that if you don’t give your children the right to have control and make decisions about their own body, then you might send the wrong messages and deny them the right to have “power” and “self-determination”.
Children’s Interests Come First
As the saying goes, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”! This is usually what we say when we see celebrity children follow the path paved by their parents. Again, the case is different for the Smith family, as Jada and Will are not interested in pushing their children to follow the same path as them.
Will Smith believes that it is more important to support and encourage the children’s interests, rather than pushing for his own dreams to be fulfilled through them. Talking to Ellen DeGeneres, Smith revealed that he and his wife decided to allow their children to pursue what they really like, as forcing them to be involved in the showbiz would be due to egotism. He clearly stated that he and Jada want to “flow with what people are naturally more than what our egos need them to be”. Words of wisdom right there!
Willow’s Controversial Photo
Back in 2014 a controversial photo surfaced online, when Willow Smith was just 13. Actor Moises Arias had posted an Instagram photo of himself, who was 20 years old at the time, sitting on his bed topless with teenage Willow lying on his leg. Despite the fact that there is nothing provocative about the picture, the post stirred the public who criticised and deemed the photo inappropriate.
The huge backlash made Arias eventually delete the photo from his account, but the continuous criticism had angered Jada Smith, who decided to speak out about her daughter’s “controversial” picture with the actor.
Smith got angry and claimed that there was nothing “sexual” about the photo, and called the critics “paedophiles” who are “projecting their trash onto it”. The Smiths were criticised once again for their unconventional parenting due to this photo, but the majority of the critics ignored the fact that Moises Arias is a close family friend and one of Jaden Smith’s best friends.
Constructive Criticism By The Children
Not many parents admit that they make mistakes, or are willing to seek their children’s advice on their parental shortcomings. Jada and Will Smith acknowledge that they are not, and certainly cannot be the perfect parents, which is why they ask to be criticised by the best critics: their own children.
Despite their unconventional parenting techniques, and their attempt to approach and respect their children as adults, the Smiths admit that they want to understand their mistakes, so they can keep adapting to changes.
Jada Smith was brave enough to ask Jaden and Willow publicly during an episode of her Red Table Talk series, about moments that she and Will made parenting mistakes. One of the replies that stand out came from Willow, who shared that she didn’t like that her parents valued her popularity more during her hit Whip My Hair, rather than her “musical growth and knowledge”. Ouch!
Self-Care Is Important
There is a myth around “good parents” that they always put the needs of their children first, and they leave their own self-care last. Jada Pinkett Smith disagrees with this approach, which is prevalent among most parents, and suggests that anyone who has children needs to take care of themselves first, so they can later “function” and care for their children.
Jada claims that through the years people have been taught that “taking care of yourself is a problem”, and they tend to think that they are being selfish if they indulge in self-care; which she believes is wrong.
The result is stressful, unhappy, and burned out parents who have no time and are not in the mood to interact with their children. The actress emphasises that “when you stop taking care of yourself, you get out of balance and really forget how to take care of others”. Even though her opinion may have been criticised, it sounds liberating for every parent!
No Questions Asked
What’s the best way to establish trust between parents and children? Avoid the questions! That’s what Will and Jada do when their kids are in a time of need. This technique might sound weird to other parents, who want to know everything about the lives of their offspring, especially if they have a problem. On the contrary, the Smiths are always there for their children, even after getting a midnight call that requires them to get out of bed to bring them home; the rule is, however, not to ask questions.
Jada revealed this unconventional technique during an interview with Jimmy Fallon, where she gave this advice to the host, being a father himself: “Don’t ask any questions…You wait until she [his daughter] comes to you and wants to talk to you”. We’re guessing that this would require a huge amount of patience and trust from the parents’ side!
Willow Smith’s “Free the Nipple” Photo
It seems that the media love to target Will and Jada’s parenting through their daughter Willow; most probably because she is a girl, and the youngest of the three children. In another controversial moment, the young artist uploaded on her Instagram account a picture of her wearing a top which depicts a woman’s bare breast, showing her support to the “free the nipple” campaign. The picture stirred the public once again, who commented that Willow is far too young to appear “topless” on social media, even with the hint of nudity.
Her mother Jada fired back at the critics, as she has done in the past, saying that people should not “pollute something that’s not dirty”. Jada did not hesitate to share her feminist views either, stating that “men and women encompass both female and masculine energies, but it seems like when the feminine is present, it’s not respected”.
It takes courage to get your children out of public or private education and home-school them, as havoc breaks when parents choose to educate their children differently and escape from the traditional system. But that’s exactly what the Smiths did; they decided to take their children out of public education and home-school them, but what is even more interesting is the reason behind it.
Will admitted in an interview that he and Jada wanted to find some other parents that would home-school their children, so they could all together create a system that would “revolutionise public education”. He explained that along with his wife they support some “very powerful educational concepts”, which apparently are not represented through formal education, that’s why they want to offer a new educational system to their children.
Unconditional Love And Support
So, what is unconventional parenting really? Despite the fact that many parents would disagree with Will and Jada Smith’s parenting techniques, and even think that they’re inappropriate and unorthodox, the important thing is the goal behind this kind of parenting. Instead of criticising other parents’ decisions on how they will raise their children, people should be open to learn and accept different perspectives, or even try alternative parenting approaches which may actually work better.
The couple shares a philosophy that helps them encourage their children, and allows them to grow in a supportive and loving environment. Will explained in one of his interviews that he and his wife only want to offer their children acceptance and an unconditionally loving and safe environment without judgement or negative criticism. What the Smiths recognise, which some other parents may find difficult to realize, is that “at the end of the day, perhaps all a child needs is love and encouragement”.