The performer and businessman is dad to 27-year-old Trey, 21-year-old Jaden, and 19-year-old Willow. As Will revealed during the episode, “From the time I was 6 years old, I wanted to be a father.”
And much of his own childhood shaped the parent he eventually turned into, but he also opened up about how he’s admitted over the 27 years he has been called “dad.” “I loved how my family was, but there were massive critical deficiencies in my father’s parenting that I wanted to correct.”
Smith even admitted to thinking, at the age of 10, that he could father better than his dad fathered.
According to Will, his father Willard Carroll Smith Sr. was “incredibly present” and an “excellent educator.” However, as Will shared with his wife, Willard also had a temper, and as the actor admitted that temper, the physical violence, “hurt my spirit.”
Nonetheless, temper aside, Willard had a huge influence on Will and his parenting styles. “I learned that everywhere is school. Anything you do, you have to do it well. Getting good grades isn’t above cleaning the kitchen. You have to discipline your mind and excel in whatever you do.” He also credited his father for helping him lose his fear of things that are impossible.
And it was those lessons that were instilled in him that helped him find his parenting “superpower.” “My superpower as a father is teaching in the moment. I would say, teaching and preaching. There’s nothing like on-the-job parenting.” And while Willard showed Will a lot of the things he wanted to do, he also showed Will “the things I would absolutely positively never do to my children.”
Will also shared his first big parenting moment after welcoming his oldest son Trey in 1992. Will shares Trey will his first wife Sheree Zampino.
“I think that was my first moment of the real weight of parenting. I brought him home, and I remember we put him in the bassinet and Sheree went to sleep, and it was like stark terror: I’m totally responsible for this life. I just couldn’t stop going and checking,” Will said as he got emotional. “In that moment, it was like how much better than me my father was…I just knew I didn’t know nothing. It hit me how fragile parenting is, and just in that moment I could see all of the spectacular lessons that my father had instilled in me.”
Pushing His Daughter Willow and Her Subsequent Protest
Will also opened up the moment he pushed his daughter to her breaking point. In 2010, Willow found success with her hit single “Whip My Hair.” As a result, she signed on to complete a 30-day tour to promote her music. But shortly after starting, Willow decided touring wasn’t for her.
Nonetheless, Will pushed her to continue to follow through with the commitment she made. As a result, Willow shaved of the long locks that were partly responsible for the song’s success. “This little girl is rejecting what I’m trying to do for her. She doesn’t want it,” Will realized through his daughter’s protest and it was something that made him realize he would have to change his parenting style when it came to raising Willow.
Because unlike Trey and Jaden, Willow was not accepting of his military-esque parenting.
“My desire for her was overriding her desire for her. I had a real epiphany on that, and how bad a person will hate you if you keep forcing your wishes onto their life. She introduced me to feelings. With Willow, I started to see how there was a higher value in talking to her about how she feels about the situation versus how to fix the situation. It became the new thought process for me.”
Will then shared a very poignant message to all the other parents of the world. “Kids aren’t ours. They are their own people. I just completely let go of my needs and my desires for their lives.”
In the end, Will’s parenting became what he calls “Gardener flower” parenting. “The seed already is what God designed it to be. The gardener is not trying to make the seed become what the gardener wants. The gardener wants to create an environment where the seed can become what it wants to be. I am going to provide nourishment and support, I am not going to preconceive what you need to be.”
Mamas Uncut is THE online place for moms. We cover the latest about motherhood, parenting, and entertainment as well – all with a mom-focused twist. So if you're looking for parenting advice from real parents, we have plenty of it, all for moms from moms, and also experts. Because, at the end of the day, our mission is focused solely on empowering moms and moms-to-be with the knowledge and answers they’re looking for in one safe space.