Will Smith: My Children Aren't My Slaves, "Property"
Jaden Smith isn't seeking emancipation from his parents, because Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith already treat him as independent. In a new interview with Haute Living, Will explains his and Jada's approach to parenting, and how filming After Earth with his son brought them closer together.
"My style of parenting is very similar to that of my parents, minus the concept of ownership. I think that, specifically in African American households, the idea coming out of slavery, there's a concept of your children being property and that was a major part that Jada and I released with our kids," Will, 44, tells the magazine. "We respect our children the way we would respect any other person. Things like cleaning up their room. You would never tell a full-grown adult to clean their room, so we don't tell our kids to clean their rooms." (Will is also father to son Trey, 20, from a previous relationship, and daughter Willow, 12, with wife Jada, 41.)
Instead, the parents frame the chore to their children in a different way. "We tell our kids 'you don't have a room, that's our room and we are letting you borrow it,'" he explains. "So the same way you would say to an adult if you let them use your car, you say, 'Yo man, clean my car! Don't drive around all filthy like that!' And it's perfectly reasonable for you to want an adult to clean your car, so we feel it's perfectly reasonable to ask our kids to clean the rooms that we are letting them use."
As for Will's recent joke that Jaden, 14, was seeking emancipation, the Men in Black actor reiterates that it was just a joke. "He is definitely not going anywhere; he is so scared of being out on his own, he says. "Willow is probably going to be emancipated before Jaden!"
In fact, Will and Jaden are closer than ever. They play a father and son fighting for survival in the new sci-fi film, After Earth, and Will says it was a bonding experience. (The two first played father and son in the 2006 drama The Pursuit of Happyness, which was Jaden's acting debut.)
"He was seven years old in The Pursuit of Happyness, he is 14 now," Will explains. "There's something really powerful about a 13-year-old going out to learn how to hunt with his father. I consider myself a warrior, and I'm a Samurai teaching my son how to fight, how to love, just really helping him develop in a young man. It was our version of a bromitzvah!"