Why Some People Think Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith Are Terrible Parents

When we don’t understand something, our first instinct is to criticize it. For many people, the way that Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith raised their kids is certainly something they don’t understand. The Smith kids are free-spirited and quick to buck society’s norms. Some even say that the Smith kids are expected to be different. The celebrity couple turned their back to many common parenting practices, and that upset a lot of people. But should we be so quick to judge them?  

Will and Jada Smith’s parenting is criticized 

Will Smith and family
(L-R) Trey Smith, Willow Smith, Jaden Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith. and Will Smith | Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for Environmental Media Association

A couple of years ago, the New York Post ran a scathing opinion piece about the Smith children, titled Any Reasonable Parent Would Be Ashamed of Will Smith’s Kids. And while this wasn’t the only story criticizing the power couple’s parenting at the time, it was probably the most insulting. The harsh article starts out by stating: “We don’t know for sure that Will and Jada Pinkett Smith are the most horrible parents on Earth. But the case for that seems strong when you consider their uber-entitled, brainless, self-adoring, twaddle-spewing little munchkins.”

Ouch. 

Although, the article does make some good points. For example, in Jaden Smith‘s Twitter bio, he calls himself “The future of Music, Photography and Film making.” That’s a big claim for a child that was 17 at the time.

His sister, Willow Smith, seemed to express a similarly inflated ego on Twitter when she said: “ANYTHING that I EVER do is geared towards the evolution and vibrational elevation of this planet through the inspiration of individuals.” It’s hard to imagine a 15-year-old girl thinking that she has that much influence on the world. Especially when her only contribution at that point was a song titled, Whip My Hair. Not exactly something that would lead to the “elevation of the planet.”

In those regards, it’s easy to see the New York Post author’s point. But at the same time, how much of their ego is due to bad parenting and how much is due to just growing up in an environment where you’re surrounded by famous people? It would easy if that’s the world you’re used to, to assume that it’s simple to become something import and elevated above normal people. 

If the Smith kids really are all the terrible things this author claims, is he doing them any favors by calling it out in such a public fashion? They still have feelings, and if they read this article, it probably hurt. And because of the way it was delivered, it’s doubtful the Smiths would have been able to see any truth to it. Instead, they probably became incredibly defensive, as any normal person would, when reading insults. 

Will and Jada Smith don’t punish their kids

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While most parents give their children consequences for bad behavior, the Smiths prefer to let their children experience the natural consequences of their actions- meaning they don’t impose their own punishments. In an interview with E! News, Will Smith was asked when was the last time he punished Jaden. His response was thought-provoking.

“We don’t do punishment,” he said. “The way that we deal with our kids is, 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—it has a little too much of a negative quality. So when they do things—and you know, Jaden, he’s done things—you can do anything you want as long as you can explain to me why that was the right thing to do for your life.”

The concept of not giving punishment is hard for most people to understand. And when we don’t understand something, the natural response is to judge. 

Children do make mistakes, that’s an undisputed fact of growing up. But regardless of if parents punish for bad behavior, the world will always impose natural consequences. For example, if a child decides to call their friend a nasty name, it’s likely that the friend’s feelings will be hurt, and they won’t want to spend time with the other child anymore. That’s a natural consequence. As an adult, we are constantly dealing with the natural consequences that the world doles out. When you don’t work hard, or when you’re lazy, you aren’t able to reap the rewards of hard work. 

Will and Jada Smith let their kids express themselves

Many parents retain some sort of control of their child’s image, but the Smith’s prefer to let their kids express themselves wholly, and however they choose to do that. For example, at the age of 12, Willow completely shaved her head, and their son, Jaden is often seen wearing skirts. 

The Smith’s defend their children’s sometimes “wacky” choices, by explaining that they have always allowed them to be completely in control of their own bodies. 

The sentiment that the Smith’s are trying to teach their children is admirable, but are they taking it too far? Are they able to strike a balance between offering freedom, and providing support in a way that teaches them about the real world? Is there so much pressure to be different, that they aren’t able to conform if they want to? 

Unfortunately, we aren’t really able to answer those questions, because we don’t know what’s going on inside the Smith kid’s thoughts. Since that’s the case, is it our job to criticize them? Just because they are celebrities, is it right to call them out in public? Maybe the best thing we can do, is express our concerns, and our theories on child-rearing in a way that doesn’t call anyone out- regardless of celebrity status. After all, are we doing these children any favors when we criticize them, and their parents in mass media?