Willing Parents: What We Can Learn from Will Smith’s Take on Parenting

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    Much has been said and debated about Will Smith’s recent comments involving parenting.

    In a Haute Living interview, he made a now famous—or infamous comment depending on who you talk to— where he said quote-unquote:

    “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.”

    Hmm, well, there was a lot of hoopla over Will’s words. But I’m not going to jump into that fray today; instead I’m going to talk a little about some of the parenting dynamics in our community that Will’s words speak to.

    Yes there are many black parents who are—how should we say—heavy-handed in their child-rearing approach, though I’m still not clear on Mr. Smith’s slavery connection so I can’t speak to that.

    Nonetheless I feel Will—who often praises his own loving parents despite his belief they raised him as quote-unquote “property”—is not saying parents who take this approach are any less loving or effective than those who don’t.

    Apparently he is saying children should be respected for the individuals they are and though we are responsible for them, we should not focus on controlling them or viewing them as mere extensions of ourselves.

    Okay, I get what Will is saying. But, where do we draw the line on issues like discipline?

    For black folk, slavery or not, one of the biggest ‘don’t dos’ in life is throwing a tantrum in public. Children in other cultures can get away with that. Our children? Can you spell T-K-O?

    And, you know, Jada is straight out of Baltimore and I honestly can’t imagine her sitting quietly as a young Jaden and Willow trash Macy’s.

    There are certain things we just don’t tolerate well, talking back, disrespect, actin’ a fool in public. Still, the take away for me is, when all is said and done, there’s no one standard, proven approach to parenting.

    Parents are all different, and so are children. Some children need more attention and discipline than others and, as parents, it’s our job to figure out what approach works best.

    And most often it’s a combination of approaches and the development of a feel for when to employ which one for the best result. So it’s up to us to recognize what is working vs. what is not and adapt accordingly.

    I’ll close this week with these words from Anne Frank:

    “Parents can only give good advice or put children on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.”

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