Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith may try to do what they believe is best for their children, but their parenting techniques have sometimes appeared quirky to the outside world. Even Jada’s mother admitted that the couple’s approach to looking after their kids was “crazy” – or so she thought at one point, anyway. And perhaps the stars still have much to learn about their offspring. In any case, Jada was definitely taken aback when her son, Jaden, came to her with a truly heartbreaking request.
Jada opened up about the particular exchange with Jaden in an episode of her online chat show Red Table Talk. During the clip, the mom discusses a conversation that she had with her actor son. And she freely admits on camera that she had been “devastated” by what Jaden had to say.
Jaden’s announcement was so shocking, in fact, that Jada has called it “one of the most heartbreaking moments” of her life. And even though the mother admits that she somewhat saw her son’s decision coming, it didn’t make it any easier. It would be heart-wrenching news for any mom to hear, after all.
The fact that Jada and Jaden are so close didn’t make the moment any less of a shock, either. Judging from their interviews and social media presence, the mother and son share quite a special bond. And while many kids may go out of their way to avoid public appearances with their parents, Jaden – and his sister, Willow – actually seem to enjoy the company of their mom.
So, although few mothers and sons would dare to reveal their deepest truths on camera, Jada and Jaden seem to have no such doubts. Virtually no subject is off-limits on the Smith’s Facebook Watch show Red Table Talk. And this candid approach has proved popular. As of January 2019, Jada had racked up over 275 million views of her web series – even earning a Daytime Emmy nomination.
Jaden has been a regular presence on the family show, too. And it’s obvious that he feels very close to his family. When the young musician performed to a heaving crowd at the 2019 Coachella Festival, for instance, he graciously invited Will and Willow on stage with him. His mom, however, was notable by her absence.
Still, if there have been any tensions between mother and son, it’s not because Jada has been an overly strict parent. Quite the opposite: both she and Will have been extremely supportive of Jaden and Willow throughout their lives. They have actively encouraged their children to pursue their own passions – rather than forcing their own interests on them.
Now Jada and Will aren’t strangers to the parenting game. After all, since tying the knot in 1997, they’ve welcomed two kids together: Jaden back in 1998 and Willow two years later. Plus, Will even has an older son named Trey – whom he shares with his first wife Sheree Zampino.
Over the years, meanwhile, Will and Jada have become infamous for their somewhat non-traditional approach to parenting their three kids. The celebrity couple have been open about the relaxed view on discipline in their household, for example. And in 2013 Will explained to Metro, “We don’t do punishment.”
Will went on, “The way that we deal with our kids is [that] they are responsible for their lives… Our concept is as young as possible, give them as much control over their lives as possible. And the concept of punishment – our experience has been [that] it has a little too much of a negative quality.”
To add to that, Will and Jada have apparently encouraged their children to be as open as they can with them. For instance, the couple created a so-called “circle of safety” when the kids were very young. The thinking behind this was supposedly to allow the family to have honest conversations with one another without fear of judgment. But as we’ll find out, this didn’t excuse the kids entirely from punishment.
You see, during a 2016 appearance on The Tonight Show, Will told host Jimmy Fallon, “[In the circle of safety, the kids are] allowed to tell us everything that they did, and they can’t get in trouble… The rule is, if we find out after the circle of safety that there was something you didn’t say, there was hell to pay.”
Yes, the aforementioned concept certainly sounds good in theory. But as Will and Jada’s kids grew older, there were some details that their parents began wishing they wouldn’t share. For example, Will admitted that when Willow became a teenager, he struggled to listen to some of her admissions.
On The Tonight Show, Will explained, “As a father, you do not want a circle of safety with a 15-year-old daughter. You do not… I’m like, ‘Baby, you need to start lying!’” In fact, Will joked that he had sometimes found this time with Willow so difficult that he’d had to pass her along to Jada. He confessed, “[I’m like,] ‘Nope! You and your mom can talk about that one!’”
Willow has revealed that her early fame put a strain on her relationship with her father, though. In fact, in a December 2018 episode of Red Table Talk, she confessed that it took years for her to be able to trust Will after her first forays into the music world. “I definitely had to forgive you and daddy for that whole ‘Whip My Hair’ thing,” she said to Jada on the show.
Willow went on to explain that the pressure she had experienced came more from Will than from Jada. “It was mostly daddy because he was so harsh at certain times,” she said. However, she didn’t go into further detail about exactly what had happened with her father.
Instead, Willow hinted that she didn’t want her career to play out in the way that it had started to. “It was a couple of years, honestly,” she said. “Trying to regain trust for not feeling like I was being listened to or like no one cared how I felt.”
Will can hardly be surprised at his children’s openness, though, given that he and Jada have always encouraged self-expression. And that goes for Willow and Jaden’s unique senses of style, too. But the doting parents have stood by their kids’ choices – even when they may have raised some eyebrows.
For instance, Jaden has been known to blur conventional lines by wearing garments that haven’t traditionally been worn by men. And it seems that Will and Jada couldn’t be prouder of their son’s radical approach to fashion. In 2016 Will told BBC Radio 1Xtra, “Jaden is 100 percent fearless.”
Will added, “[Jaden] will do anything. As a parent, it’s scary; it’s really terrifying. But he is completely willing to live and die by his artistic decisions, and he doesn’t concern himself with what people think.” Furthermore, it appears that Will and Jada fully support their son’s freedom to express himself, and they believe that this helps him grow as an individual.
“There’s a really powerful internal quality as an artist that as parents we encourage,” Will went on. “You gotta get out on the edge, [and] you have to try things. You have to be comfortable doing things that people don’t agree with, and you have to be comfortable doing things that you could fail.”
So, no matter Jaden’s choices, we can only presume that his parents would be there to support him. However, despite their track record of always having their kids’ backs, Jada and Will had apparently felt forced to step in when Jaden went vegan.
In a 2019 episode of Red Table Talk, Jada reveals, “Will and I had a bit of an intervention with Jaden because he’s a vegan now, but we realised he wasn’t getting enough protein… So he was wasting away. He just looked drained, he was just depleted. He wasn’t getting the nutrients.”
While her mother’s intuition may have played a part, it wasn’t just Jada who picked up on her brother’s sullen appearance. It just so happened that Will was appearing on the Red Table Talk alongside his wife and three children to discuss health eating. And in the clip, he says of Jaden, “There was even a little greyness to his skin. We got really nervous.”
As a result of his parents’ intervention, Jaden made the decision to abandon veganism in favour of a vegetarian diet. He still refused to eat meat, but does consume other animal products like cheese and eggs. Jaden explains on the show, “I’ll go vegan for a week or so but for the past year I’ve been vegetarian.”
And as you would expect, Will and Jada have also backed their daughter Willow when she faced backlash for her choices. When the young singer shaved her hair back in 2012, for instance, it was her parents who found themselves in the firing line. And this incident also came up in the recent episode of Red Table Talk.
At the time, though, the Smiths didn’t take the criticism lying down. In fact, in November 2012 Jada took to Facebook to remind her haters that women and girls have every right to change their appearances without fear of judgment. She wrote, “The question [is] why I would let Willow cut her hair. First, the [word] ‘let’ must be challenged.”
Jada continued, “This is a world where women [and] girls are constantly reminded that they don’t belong to themselves – that their bodies are not their own nor their power or self-determination. I made a promise to endow my little girl with the power to always know that her body, spirit and her mind are her domain. Willow cut her hair because her beauty, her value [and] her worth is not measured by the length of her hair.”
And Will seemingly shares Jada’s belief that Willow’s body is her own to do with as she wishes. In 2013 the actor told Parade, “When you have a little girl, it’s like, how can you teach her that you’re in control of her body? She can’t cut my hair, but that’s her hair… She has got to have command of her body.”
But while the Smiths have encouraged their children to be themselves, some of their decisions have led to some challenging moments. Jada addressed one such incident in her Facebook chat series Red Table Talk. As you may know, Jada hosts the online show with Willow and her mom Adrienne Banfield-Jones. Furthermore, as we’ll soon see, the program often features close friends and other family members, too.
So, during one episode in 2018, Jada turned her attention to her own household and got candid about parenting. In order to give a balanced perspective on her maternal talents, she invited both Jaden and Willow to appear alongside her. And the conversation between mother and son got pretty deep at one point.
The episode of Red Table Talk in question was called “Growing Up Smith!” And a teaser for the show read, “At the Red Table this week, Jaden Smith and Willow Smith reveal what it’s like growing up in one of the most famous families in America. Adrienne Banfield Norris (Gammy) wonders if the kids may have been granted too much independence by their parents…”
The episode opens inside what appears to be the Smith family home, where Jada and Adrienne are sat awaiting the arrival of Jaden and Willow who are said to be “running behind schedule.” Excusing her children’s tardiness, Jada explains to her mom, “Well, you know, they’re working… [Willow] and Jaden have rehearsals.”
As she awaits Jaden and Willow’s arrival, Jada tells Adrienne, “We’re going to be talking about parenting, the joys… and pitfalls of parenting.” And when the two young Smiths finally arrive at the table, Jada wastes no time in getting down to business. First, she gives her viewers some context of the Smith family dynamic.
Introducing her son at the beginning of Red Table Talk, Jada says, “Jaden’s my baby boy – my firstborn. He’s one of the most loving, gentle creatures that I know. Jaden’s a musician, an actor and an entrepreneur. He has a clothing line… his own record label, and a sustainably sourced spring water company, because he cares about making the world a better place.”
Jada continues, “I’m a proud mama when it comes to Jaden and Willow – of their successes and their compassion.” But while Jada is able to rejoice in her children’s successes as artists and individuals, she also opens up about the pain they have caused her as a parent. Because as the chat progresses, the doting mom reveals how Jaden caused “one of the most heartbreaking moments of [her] life.”
Before getting to the more difficult parts of her relationship with Jaden, the doting mom welcomes her son to the Red Table. She then tells him, “You’re our special guest today.” Adrienne subsequently informs viewers that Jaden is “just in from Japan,” to which he replies, “I’m so glad to be back.” However, he is unaware of the painful memories his chat with his mom is about to stir up.
It’s Adrienne who gets the conversation flowing – discussing how different Jaden and Willow’s upbringing was to that of their mother Jada’s. The grandmother explains in the video, “We didn’t give kids a whole lot of choice… I felt like you guys had too much say over your own lives.” But Adrienne’s admission is met with an incredulous laugh from Jaden and Willow – who can’t seem to comprehend what they’re hearing.
However, Adrienne goes on to explain why she thought Jaden and Willow had too much freedom. She says, “[Jada] treated you like adults, and I just felt like, ‘He’s eight!’ He’s going to tell me what time he’s going to bed? It was their idea of parenting, [it] was so different to what I was used to. I was like, ‘These people are crazy!’”
Responding to Adrienne’s thoughts on her and Will’s unconventional approach to parenting, Jada explained that she felt like she was preparing Jaden and Willow for life. She said, “I don’t want to make decisions for you. 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.”
However, it seems that Jada might have equipped Jaden with the tools he needed for independence way more quickly than she intended. That’s because the adoring mom reveals how Jaden had come to her at the age of 15 and had requested to be set free. Jada explains in the video, “It was probably one of the most heartbreaking moments of my life.”
You see, out of the blue, Jaden asks Jada in the episode if he could move out of the family home. Recalling what went down with her son, the actress tells him, “You got to a point where you told me straight up. You were like, ‘Mom, I have to leave here to live my life.’” And the mother seemingly remembers the incident correctly, as Jaden agrees with her account, adding, “Totally.”
Astonishingly, though, while Jada was admittedly heartbroken by her son’s request for freedom, her reaction in the video isn’t what you may expect. Explaining how she responded to Jaden, she says, “I remember thinking to myself, as devastated as I was, I was like, ‘He’s right. The time is now; he’s 15. It’s time for him to leave the house.’”
However, not everyone in Jada’s immediate family is quite so understanding. Interrupting the conversation, Adrienne admits, “I would have never agreed with that.” But Jada goes on to explain why she was willing to hear Jaden out on the subject of leaving home. Apparently, you see, the latter had shown adult-like qualities from a very early age.
Yes, Jada admits during the Red Table Talk episode that she saw Jaden’s bid for freedom coming. The mom explains, “I knew. I told Will – when Jaden was smaller – I said, ‘We’ll be lucky to keep him in the house until he’s 16.’ Because he was so mature. He was making films… he could really manage his own life.”
What’s more, Jada was aware of the pressures of being a celebrity and could see why Jaden would want his own space. She continues, “Being in this lifestyle – in this world – is a bubble. He wanted out, and I understood that because I didn’t have the bubble. And I knew what – having my freedom outside of the bubble – what I gained from that.”
Ultimately, though, Jada understood that allowing Jaden to have some freedom didn’t mean cutting ties with him forever. Revealing her motivation behind allowing her son to move out, the actress says in the video, “I knew that the sooner I let him go, the faster he was going to come back.” And it seems that she was right.
In July 2013, you see, Jaden reportedly filed for emancipation from Jada and Will as a gift for his 15th birthday. When the child star appeared on an episode of The Ellen DeGeneres Show that same year, however, he addressed this claim. And he appeared to deny that he was planning on leaving home.
Setting the record straight on Ellen, Jaden explained, “See, here’s the thing that you need to understand: I’m not going anywhere… The thing that people don’t get is [that] everything at this house is free! So I can get anything and everything at this house, so I’m going to be there [for] 20 [or] 30 more years.”
Jaden didn’t actually move out of the Smith family home in Malibu, California, until June 2017. And even then he didn’t go too far – relocating to a mansion in Los Angeles’ Hidden Hills that’s reportedly worth around $4 million. The exclusive gated neighborhood has housed many famous faces over the years: including Jessica Simpson, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West.
In fact, Jaden was approaching his 19th birthday when he finally moved out of his parents’ home, meaning he was a little older than he had been when he’d first asked to fly the nest. But gaining independence was apparently beneficial to him – especially when it came to how he saw his family.
And during his appearance on Red Table Talk, Jaden explains how moving out changed his perspective on family life. He says, “It just makes you appreciate being at home, being with your parents [and] spending quality time with family. You get out into the world, and then you just kind of just understand things.”
So it seems that the Smiths got things right when it came to giving Jaden the space to decide what he wanted for himself. And yet the couple’s parenting techniques haven’t always gone down so well with their children. In fact, Jaden and Willow have both suggested that they felt pushed into the spotlight before they were perhaps ready.
For example, Willow became a household name when she was just ten years old thanks to her 2010 single “Whip My Hair.” But speaking of this period on Red Table Talk, the singer confesses that it was a “really terrible experience.” Plus, she adds, “The values of the people that were around me should have been the opposite.”
Clarifying what Willow meant, Jada says in the episode, “You’re feeling about that was that you felt like you were put in the game too soon.” She goes on, “I think all that came with it was too much.” However, the mom explains that she and Will thought they were doing the right thing by supporting their daughter’s dreams.
Jada continues, “Your dad and I, we were like, ‘Oh man, she’ll be set up for life. This is her start.’” However, Willow admits that shaving her hair was a consequence of the “upset” that she suffered from her pop career. She adds, “There’s a Nirvana lyric that says, ‘I shave my head, and then I’m not sad.’”
But of course, Willow wasn’t the only child star in the Smith family. Yes, like his sister, Jaden has been famous from a young age – having appeared in several movies such as The Pursuit of Happyness. And he too struggled to deal with some of the pressures of fame. Indeed, there was one movie in particular where he felt as though everything was too much.
Jaden reveals on Red Table Talk, “I went through the same thing that Willow went through with ‘Whip My Hair’ with The Karate Kid. It was happening at the same time.” Yes, it seems as though Jaden’s role in the 2010 movie – which also stars Jackie Chan – pushed him to his limits.
Jada explains, “I remember the moment, because I asked [Jaden], [and he] went into that full split, and he was in tears. And I was like, ‘I’m done.’” However, even when Jada was ready to throw in the towel, Jaden wanted to power through. The mom reveals, “He looked at me, [and] he’s like, ‘Mom, I’m good.’ He got up, and he said, ‘Let’s do it again.’”
So it seems that – much like most parents – Jada and Will have experienced both successes and failures when it comes to raising their kids. Taking that into consideration, then, the mom is apparently careful not to force parenting advice on others. What Jada does believe, however, is that “every child needs something different.” And this may explain her and Will’s unique approach to family life.