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Will Smith, who has three children, opened up about how his dad influenced his parenting.
If you’re familiar with the Facebook web series Red Table Talk, you know that Jada Pinkett-Smith has had many honest and emotional conversations on a myriad of topics, but the latest installment may have been the most raw episode yet. For the first time, Jada invited her husband, Will, for a one-on-one conversation in honor of Father’s Day.
“From the time I was 6 years old I wanted to be a father,” Smith began the conversation on his evolution as a dad. “I loved how my family was but there were massive, critical deficiencies in my father’s parenting that I wanted to correct.”
He described his father, who he referred to as Daddy-O, as a strict disciplinarian, who he implies was, at times, abusive toward his mother. Smith admitted that it caused a rift between them when he was younger. But, he did appreciate some of his dad's wisdom and was able to glean what he wanted to replicate and what he didn’t.
"I learned that everywhere is school. That anything you do, you have to do it well. Getting good grades isn't above cleaning the kitchen," the Bad Boy actor said.
Then at 24 years old, he got his initial taste of fatherhood, with his first son, Willard Carroll "Trey" Smith III, whom he had with his now ex-wife Sheree Zampino. Smith was brought to tears talking about the experience.
When Trey was born, Will told Jada that his first thought was, “I can’t do it, I’m not the guy."
Smith and Zampino split two years later and he described the divorce as the “ultimate failure” of his adult life.
And though the Smiths didn’t delve into their own marriage in this episode, they did address the criticism they received from parenting Trey, along with their two other children together, Jaden and Willow—particularly the fact that they let their kids work.
"Our family has been under the public microscope for a long time. I think people didn't understand why we both valued that idea...of the kids going to work," Jada said. "People thought that we were forcing our kids to work," Will added on.
"And that it was part of education of life for them in so many ways," the 48-year-old mother of two said.
To make up for the time he spent away from his children because of the traveling Will did as an actor, the Smiths opted for homeschooling. "My kids, being with me, is of a higher value than sitting in a classroom."
And when it came to his children's personal and professional pursuits, there's no surprise that they inherited their parents' combined all-star talent. Smith's parenting style, which he inherited from his own father, influenced his kids and their achievements in their careers, he explains. For the most part, he said his contributions worked out. He described Jaden working tirelessly for his role in Karate Kid, recalling that Jaden refused to stop working until he could finally master a split. But when it came to his last child—and only daughter, Willow—she fiercely rejected her father's hopes that she'd go all in with her music career after she released Whip My Hair in 2010 at nine years old.
“I saw how much I was making and forcing and pushing the things that I wanted and in that moment I just saw it was starting to hurt her," the 51-year-old said when it came to Willow and his dream for her to earn a number one record. "My desire for her was overriding her desire for her."
Willow took a music hiatus until she was a teen. And, when she finally did return, she built her career the way she wanted it, Jada went on to explain.
His parenting style shifted to accommodate his kids' feelings: With Trey, it was with his decision to stop playing football after high school, despite getting multiple college offers. With Jaden, it was during his experience working on the movie After Earth where Smith vowed to not "push or pound" on him, and with Willow, it was her music career after her hit single."
The episode ended with each of the Smith kids giving a personalized Happy Father's Day video message to their dad.
"There are no rules," Will said to Jada about parenting. "It’s more art than there is science, and, you know, I love what we’re painting."
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