Jada Pinkett Smith: Jaden asked to be emancipated at 15

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Jada Pinkett Smith has been getting a lot of press for her candid Facebook video series, Red Table Talks. She actually started this project, a kind of a therapy session with friends and family, back in 2011. At that time Jada and her mom, Adrienne Banfield-Jones, sat Jada’s daughter Willow, then 11, down and told her that Adrienne was addicted to drugs when Jada was growing up. Willow also said that she didn’t want to be famous, called it “so hard” and cried on camera. I wrote at the time that it was unfair to Willow to drop emotional bombshells on her and then air her reaction.

Do you remember, when Will was doing press for that terrible After Earth with Jaden, that he talked about his kids like they were little adults? It sounded like Jada and Will were using Scientology child-rearing methods (they started a private school using Scientology teaching methods too) in that they weren’t giving their kids much supervision. That changed a few years later and Will expressed regret at being so lax at parenting.

On the most recent Red Table Talks, Jada, her mom Adrienne, Willow, 17, and Jaden, 19, talked about Willow and Jaden’s unconventional childhood and lack of structure (my words). Jada revealed that Jaden wanted to be emancipated at 15. That would have been in 2013, when After Earth came out and Will was saying things likeOur concept is, as young as possible, give them as much control over their lives as possible.” In late 2013, Jaden was tweeting meme-ready quotes about school brainwashing children and newborn babies being “The Most Intelligent Beings On Planet Earth.” So it’s not surprising to hear this. Here’s some of what Jada, her mom and Willow and Jaden said and you can watch the video here:

Jada’s mom, Adrienne, on Will and Jada’s parenting style
We didn’t give kids a whole lot of choice. I felt like you guys had too much say over your own lives. She 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? Their idea of parenting was so different.

Willow: It worked, we alive.

Jada: I don’t want to make decisions for you. I want to prepare you as much as possible and give you as much control over your life as quickly as I can… Every child need something different.

On Jaden asking to be emancipated at 15
Jada: At 15 years old Jaden, this was probably one of the most heartbreaking moments in my life, you got to a point where you told me straight up. ‘You were like mom, I have to leave here to live my life.’

Jaden: Totally

Jada: 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 to leave the house.’

Adrienne: I would have never agreed with that.

Jada: I told Will, when Jaden was smaller, ‘We’d be lucky to keep him in the house till he’s 16.’ Because he was so mature. He was making films. He could really manage his whole life. Being in this lifestyle is a bubble and he wanted out. I knew that the sooner I let him go, the faster he was gonna come back.

[From Facebook video]

It really struck me that they had this false dichotomy between providing boundaries and rules vs. letting kids do whatever the hell they want. Teenagers and tweens especially need guidelines for navigating life. You can let them have structured freedom and make decisions without giving them free reign. I did get a lot of insight into why Jada would think it’s ok to give her kids complete control though. Jada talked about having to sell drugs as a teen in order to make money because her mother was a drug addict and couldn’t provide for her. She said “The fact that I had to live and die by my own hands prepared me to be out here in LA at 18 by myself and I have it be nothing.” Willow seemed especially affected by her mom and grandmother’s survival stories. She also expressed regret at the “Whip My Hair” era and said that’s why she shaved her head, to rebel against that. Again I was struck by how unfair it seemed to her to air this. Jaden was unfazed and philosophical, so maybe his mom was right that she needed to let him do his own thing at 15 because he would come back anyway.

At the end of the video they talk about Jaden getting signed to represent Louis Vuitton women because he was wearing skirts at 17. Will questioned it but Jada supported him. Jaden explained his decision. “I wore the skirt so I could look fly. So that everyone would say ‘he’s an innovator.‘”

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Photos are screenshots from Facebook video and also credit: Getty

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43 Responses to “Jada Pinkett Smith: Jaden asked to be emancipated at 15”

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  1. NeoCleo says:

    Emancipated from what? He’s allowed to do pretty much whatever he wants already!

    • Jane says:

      THIS! ^

    • broodytrudy says:

      I guess i don’t see the point in emancipation for him? He has plenty of money, surely his parents who don’t seem to really parent him anyway could just sign off in him getting his own place? I don’t know California laws but i cant imagine it’s abandonment when you’re financially supporting your child well beyond what they really need.
      It’s just is all so strange.

    • AnnaKist says:

      These were my thoughts, too, NeoCleo and Broodytrudy. I’d always thought that these parents created a false reality bubble for their children – creating and employing them in their own projects, almost as if they were foisting their children on the world as ready-made superstars. The parents seemed to not value education for their children, as if education was just a means of earning a salary, which they clearly did/do not need, when it is clearly very much more than that. I think the children have turned out fine due more to luck (and the protection money can buy) than to their quality parenting.

    • Anna says:

      Emancipated from their money, too?

  2. Chaine says:

    Willow seems more mature now. I didn’t watch the actual show, was her “we are still alive” sarcasm? Because otherwise, not exactly a ringing endorsement of the parenting skills.

    Jaden still sounds like a doofus, but overall, he seems like a good person. I guess as long as your kids treat others well, you raised them right. Let him do his thing, whatever that may be.

  3. rabbitgirl says:

    He is just to evolved to have parents. Gawd, these people!

  4. Umyeah says:

    You know how in most families their is a stern parent and the easy going parent, i think the Smiths are both the easy going parent……not a good thing

  5. WMGDtoo says:

    Why have children?

    Jaden still seems lost to me. Still trying to find whatever. And the opportunities that he has are only there at 15/17 because if his parents. If he were any other kid he would be homeless and living on the streets or on someone’s couch. He can be free and innovative because his parents are RICH and he has a cushion to fall on if all goes wrong. he has not “struggled one day of his life”. Never been hungry. Never had to worry about where his next safe night would be.
    And what happened to telling children NO because he was and is a CHILD.

  6. Pedro45 says:

    Jesus, lady. He’s not more mature. It was his literal job as a teenager to rebel against his parents. Just like it was your job as a parent to set healthy boundaries.

  7. diane says:

    Jada – the freedom mom sure doesn’t let her kids speak at all….she mostly answers for them

  8. Red says:

    I love that Jaden thinks he’s an innovator for wearing feminine clothing. Hollywood is this crazy tiny bubble where people honestly think they are the center of the world. I feel pity for those who were born into it, because they never had a chance. Willow sounds way more mature than her brother, and I definitely respect her for standing up to her parents about not having a career years ago. I hope she stays out of the spotlight and goes to college, but I highly doubt it.

    • Slowsnow says:

      Yup. Re: men wearing skirts, has Jaden heard of Jean-Paul Gaultier? Or Scottish men?
      He seems to me to be the most problematic kid. Because he is a boy, he keeps his composure (that has been my experience with my kids so far, even with a modern upbringing, boys still feel the need to play it cool) whereas at least Willow wears her heart on her sleeve and lets it out.

    • jwoolman says:

      I think Willow would really enjoy college, but she would need one ready to do a lot of remedial work with her to get her basic skills back up to speed. More and more colleges are providing such help. So she would have to plan on more than four years if she wants to have some semblance of a normal life (rather than pushing through with overloads). But a good liberal arts college would let her explore all the different academic subject areas so she could get an idea of what is available to her as well as hone her reading and writing skills. She of course could afford tutors to get her up to speed also. She has the intelligence, she is just undereducated.

    • eto says:

      didn’t we all think we were innovators though? i straight copied avril lavigne’s whole tie & polo thing in high school and still walked around like i was some creative genius LOL. can we cut him some slack?

  9. Carrie1 says:

    Just like Jada suffered effects of her upbringing, her kids will one day be in the same place as she is now – trying to make sense of their upbringing and heal some deep wounds.

    I’m no expert but when people are raised by parents who don’t know how to parent in a healthy way, or if they were neglected, a lot of life after growing up is difficult and painful. These kids are lucky their parents are wealthy, it kept them insulated. Most kids in these situations don’t have that.

    I believe this family is unconventional and maybe they went too far with it but only they know. Or the kids will know when they hit their forties, or earlier. I just hope they’re all ok from here on out and remain a supportive loving family because that will get them through a lot. If they weren’t close, I’d worry.

    • jwoolman says:

      The one thing Jada and Will’s children will always have going for them is the clear fact that their parents did love them. But they didn’t help their kids get the skills needed to be truly secure in adulthood and truly able to pursue whatever interests they develop.

      Willow and Jaden seem stuck in certain rich-kid activities not requiring an education. Their future all hinges on keeping tons of money in their pockets and that can change. If they die rich, no problem. For them, at least. Their kids will be in the same situation, dependent on tons of money, unless Jaden and Willow decide to do it differently.

  10. Slowsnow says:

    I have no words.
    I still remember being very mature at 16, and, quite frankly bored of school, albeit a good student. I was ready to go to college and be independent. I had to wait 2 years move to another country to study at uni.
    Problem is, I grew up, started dating and had much more “grown-up” problems at 18 than at 16. My parents were very disconnected and probably thought I was studying virginally and focusing on my future. Those were very difficult years. I was legally an adult but by no means able to do make decisions without talking them through.
    Now my daughter is 18 and I see exactly the same thing: that’s when they need parents the most although they’re flying on their own.
    The Smith’s conception of education and humanity is completely basic and without any compassion.

  11. me says:

    Ok Jaden, you aren’t the first male to wear a skirt! That being said, these kids seem smart and wayyyyyy better off than any Kardashian/Jenner. They stay out of trouble, rarely are in the headlines, and have a unique style of their own. Let them be.

  12. Elisabeth says:

    it sounds like Jada wants her kids to like her, to be their buddy. Ughhh
    How do kids come up with ‘what’s best for them’ if their parents provide no guidelines? My 8 year old would stay up all night if I let her ‘make her own choice’ but I make her go to bed at 8:30 because she needs the rest.
    If they didn’t have the resources (i.e. money and fame) do you think Jaden would have wanted to been emancipated? I think not

    • eto says:

      Full transparency, I’m not a parent but I thought the point of letting them decide those things is that if she did stay up all night, she would feel awful the next day but ultimately learn something?

      I grew up with intensely strict parents and i wish they would have given me any agency to decide what was best for myself because when i was finally on my own, i flopped lol. i also looked into emancipation at that age too.

      • Daffodil says:

        Learning from natural consequences is great for some things (you forgot your lunch at home, so you’ll just be hungry all afternoon), but some things are too big and foundational to leave to children’s whims. For our family, and I bet for many, sleep is definitely one of those things. Just like most families are probably pretty strict about leaving knives on the counter in a house full of preschoolers.

      • eto says:

        Sure I’m not a fan of knives on the counter as an adult either but I think there’s value to having a conversation with your kid rather than going with the “I’m your parent so you have to do it” approach. Obviously common sense & safety stuff doesn’t fall into this but I don’t see a ton of merit in the hardass approach.

      • Lex says:

        My friend in high school had few limits at home like bed time and such. Throughout high school she’d show up exhausted after having stayed up all night watching tv. She couldn’t pay attention and performed really poorly at school. Her parents didn’t care much for academia so they didn’t really care it seems.

        Kids or teens don’t often equate actions with consequences so I wouldn’t 100% bank on kids always learning from these mistakes.

  13. jwoolman says:

    Jada thought her son Jaden was mature?!?!?! He is definitely a sweet kid, but maturity has never been the word I’ve thought to attach to him. Quite the opposite, he seems rather slow to mature.

    Those kids had to raise themselves. Their parents were deluded by their covert Scientology.

    If Jaden and his parents lose their money, he will be in a bad way. Willow seems like more of a survivor, but Jaden seems more fragile to me. He thought he could become independent at 15 simply because he had the money to cushion him from what usually happens to 15 year olds on their own.

    He couldn’t have been rebelling against parental rules, because there really weren’t any. But maybe that was it, his parents weren’t really providing him with what parents usually do anyway. Even though teens might not like the structure chosen by their parents, it helps them to have experienced it so they can build their own structure as adults. It’s like learning a foreign language – once you’ve learned one, you’re primed to learn another. So he might as well be off in his own mansion doing whatever, just chatting with the parents when the mood strikes. He can always hire people to do all the work to maintain his mansion and handle his finances. Buying his own home was more like setting up his new room in the attic for the non-rich.

  14. Harryg says:

    I find Jada Pinkett Smith really annoying. She seems very insecure.

    • Olive says:

      exactly, this was supposed to be an interview with Jaden yet it seems Jada is posing AND ANSWERING all questions to him. it’s like she’s still trying to convince herself she made the right choice.

      • Carrie1 says:

        Same. She’s always been like this. Genuinely I’ve never understood wtf Will sees or saw in her.

  15. Stephanie says:

    Wow I can’t believe how much criticism Jaden is getting. He’s only 19 with limited and completely different experiences to most of the rest of the world. Of course his views aren’t perfect or fully fleshed out yet. Is he immature? Of course, what 19 yo boy isn’t? Also, they are only briefly talking about his emancipation. In an interview a little while back Will told us the reason Jaden asked for it. He told his Dad “if I stay here, I’ll always have everything handed to me. I’ll never learn how to take care of myself. I’ll still be here in my 30′s and 40′s.” At 15, i had a job. It wasn’t enough to live off of but i could have figured it out if i lost my mom. While not a normal situation, he had the wiggle room to flounder and work on figuring things out on his own. Being in his situation, i don’t think it was the wrong call. He also thinks Willow is absolutely perfect. I wonder if her self assurance plays a role in how he views himself.

  16. Lynnie says:

    For the most part both Willow and Jaden have decent indie music careers. They really need the opportunity to receive a standard education though, because they’re both bright but that curiosity can feel oppressive if it’s not used. Glad both of them are still sweet tho 😊

    • lucy2 says:

      I think their parents really failed them with the Scientology school and then no school, as far as I can tell. They could have given them top notch educations AND still given them creative freedom to pursue their passions.
      Willow’s resistance to everything her parents pushed on her (celebrity, acting, hit songs) is pretty telling.

  17. ZsaZsa Fierce says:

    I’m just glad Mama Adrienne isn’t cosigning this new parental model.
    Good thing it appears to be working for them because there is a lot that could go wrong.
    In my opinion, he should have been sent to boarding school – good compromise.

  18. Immy says:

    They are cool and “hip” now …how about when they are approaching 40? I can’t imagine Jaden doing anything of value, Willow maybe. Willow is baffling because she claims to dislike the spotlight, but is still (to my knowledge) working in the music industry. Its obvious that Will and Jada wanted their children in the entertainment industry. Despite Willow and Jaden’s eccentricities they do strike me as being bright, it’s sad that they have been pushed to follow their parents. I wonder how much Scientology has to do with all of this…

  19. xdanix says:

    Jesus CHRIST. It takes all sorts and all that, but WHAT kind of responsible parent looks at their FIFTEEN year old child and thinks yep, he’s old enough to leave and run everything himself, the time is right?!?! No, no the time is NOT right!! Not for ANY fifteen year old child, no matter HOW much money they have!! I don’t think Will and Jada are bad people, and I do think they love their kids very much. But I am APPALLED at that statement.

    • jwoolman says:

      If Jaden wanted to learn how to take care of himself, they could have helped him without just telling him it was ok to leave. They could have told him to do volunteer work on a regular schedule, for starters. Or told him to find a job and stick with it on his own, and not in the entertainment or fashion industry and not something that his parents could just buy for him but rather something that other non-rich kids with non-famous parents are likely to do. He could babysit for free for people who can’t really afford babysitters, and learn how to take care of small children totally dependent on him. He could cook meals for the family and clean the house. He could walk dogs for a local shelter. He could have been busy 24/7 learning how to take care of himself and others.

      And he could have gotten serious about how he would need to prepare for a real education, one that would challenge him and his ideas rather than fawning over him. He could have found out what skills he needed to work on, and worked with a tutor or taken remedial classes at a local college. Like his sister, he has shown interest in things far beyond his ability to even start learning about, because his parents clipped his wings by not providing a good basic education. But he has the good fortune to be able to make up for that deficiency and then all that money would truly be a blessing, allowing him to follow dreams he doesn’t even know about yet.

      Really, nobody needs to leave home at 15 in order to learn how to take care of themselves. If his parents weren’t floating in money, he would be learning such things always. Neither Jada nor Will grew up rich. How did they get to the point of thinking their kids didn’t need to know how to do all this stuff, and that it made sense to buy careers for them when they were still young children?

  20. Sarah says:

    Instead of trying to get emancipated because it sounds cool and you need something to occupy yourself with, why not focus on your education and school work? Oh wait…. I wonder what Jada thinks herself about schools and learning. With all the big mouth talking she does it’s interesting to pay attention to the topics she avoids. Also, when Will Smith expressed regrets of having given his kids too much freedom and not enough structure, I wonder if those weren’t some phrases he had rehearsed in advance with his publicist, because they knew that people were side eying him and his family man image because of Jaden’s weirdo tweets about children not needing schools etc.

    • Otaku fairy says:

      I get that he’s a public figure and because of that, there’s more concern about what he says. But his attitude about school just seemed pretty typical for a teenager.

  21. nikki 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 to leave the house.’”

    That’s the most delusional piece of “parenting” I’ve heard all year.