Raising Child Stars: The Pinkett Smith Way

The matriarch explains why she won’t stop encouraging Jaden and Willow’s showbiz aspirations.

Posted: 04/05/2011 11:07 AM EDT
Willow Smith and Jaden Smith

Jaden and Willow Smith haven’t even hit their teens and already the offspring of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith are commanding their own place in the spotlight with budding careers that have earned just as much headline attention as their famous parents in the past year. But the 12-year-old Karate Kid actor and 10-year-old Whip My Hair songstress’ rise to fame hasn’t been without criticism. Many wonder if the children’s images are “too grown” for their age, and some, like author Terry McMillan, have even bashed their parents for “exploiting” them. Despite the naysayers, Jada explained to the Daily Mail UK that she’ll continue to encourage her stars to shine.  

"That’s the thing that’s difficult for people to understand," Jada said. "This isn’t about fame or money. They were still going to have their trials because of who their parents are. As much as I wish I could figure out a way I could protect my children, they have their destiny. I’m not going to put brakes on that out of fear."

The Smiths are certainly not an average family, but there’s still a system in their family unit. “Our family structure is a little different and it’s quite hard to comprehend because it’s so outside what usually happens in a family, but the paradigm is the same,” Pinkett Smith said. “You have Mother. You have Father. Father is protective. Mother is the teacher. Most of the time with child stars, the child has all the responsibilities and the mother and father don’t understand what’s actually happening to them, so the child can trust no one. They feel: ‘I have to do this all by myself’ and start to connect to people around them who might not be that trustworthy. But with us, the paradigm stays the same because the child can still be the child with an extraordinary gift.”

For Jada, it’s essential to give her children certain parenting tools, but her experiences in the business have prompted her to ease up on areas that other parents may clamp down on, and for Willow, that means light editing on expressive outfits and a look that some shoo as way too old.

"I would say we’re giving her the freedom to express herself through her dress—with boundaries. She can’t wear tight leather pants or a corset," says Jada, who also added no exposed midriff and no heels to the list. “There’s certain areas we just have to ease up on as far as our children are concerned. It’s not about a certain pair of trousers or a certain jacket or if a child wants to shave her head. I mean, hair grows back. I find areas for Willow to express herself that, to me, are very safe.”

Jada sees her parenting role as two-fold, “I have to be a mum, and I have to be a mentor because I’ve been down that road. I know what it is.” Although she’s still active in the industry, with a role on HawthoRNe and producing credits to boot, for this celebrity mom, right now, it’s more about guiding the next generation of stars—including her own children—to the top. "There’s a cycle of mine in Hollywood that’s ending now and the birth of another cycle—my daughter’s cycle. I have to be the best I can be for her."

 

(Photo: Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

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