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Watch Will Smith Open Up About Fatherhood on Red Table Talk

Will Smith Gets Emotional Talking About the Fragility of Parenthood With Jada Pinkett Smith

Jada And Will: Their First One-On-One Conversation

On this special Father's Day episode, Jada sits down with Will for one of the most intimate and vulnerable conversations the couple has ever shared. Will and Jada reflect on their 23 years of parenting, including the lessons they've learned, the failures they've overcome and how Will's divorce from his first wife shaped his approach as a father and husband. Plus, never-before-seen Smith family home videos and Father's Day surprises from Trey, Jaden & Willow.

Posted by Red Table Talk on Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Will Smith's philosophy on fatherhood has undergone quite the journey through the years. The actor and dad of three — 27-year-old Trey, 21-year-old Jaden, and 19-year-old Willow — was recently interviewed by his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, for a particularly intimate episode of Red Table Talk timed for Father's Day. In it, Will reflected on how his own upbringing informed his parenting style and the ways in which he's since made adjustments based on the realities of what his children actually need from him.

"From the time I was 6 years old, I wanted to be a father. I loved how my family was, but there were massive critical deficiencies in my father's parenting that I wanted to correct," Will said. He went on to explain how his father, Willard Carroll Smith Sr., was incredibly present and an excellent educator in matters of everyday life, however, his temper didn't match Will's gentler disposition. "That hurt my spirit," Will said.

Even so, Will credited his father with instilling in him a sense of discipline and ability to create teachable moments. "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," Will said. He later added: "My superpower as a father is teaching in the moment. I would say, teaching and preaching . . . There's nothing like on-the-job parenting."

"It hit me how fragile parenting is."

The episode's most emotional moment came as Will spoke about the birth of his oldest child, Trey, during his previous marriage to 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. Through tears, Will expressed feeling unsure if he could succeed as a father. "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."

Another enlightening moment happened as Willow began to establish her own success with the release of her debut single, "Whip My Hair," in 2010. Though she had committed to doing a 30-day tour to promote her new music, Willow expressed wanting to go home after a few performances. Having emphasized discipline and a strong work ethic for so long, Will urged Willow to push and continue on. Willow ultimately did not complete the tour and shaved her head, which Will interpreted as a sign of protest. He said, "This little girl is rejecting what I'm trying to do for her. She doesn't want it."

"Kids aren't ours. They are their own people."

The experience caused Will to assess his parenting style. "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," Will said. "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 later added, "Kids aren't ours. They are their own people. I just completely let go of my needs and my desires for their lives." Watch the vulnerable interview in its entirety above.

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