Jada Pinkett Smith and her husband, Will Smith, sat down in June for a special edition of Red Table Talk. The episode is all about fatherhood, and Will doesn’t hold back. He speaks candidly about his own father, and even reveals that he wanted to “correct” his father’s parenting. It’s an eye-opening conversation to say the least.
Will Smith reveals there were ‘massive critical deficiencies’ in his father’s parenting
Jada asks her husband when he believes his “fatherhood instincts kicked in.” Will gives a surprising answer, and he in fact knew he wanted to be a father at an early age. He also noticed his father’s “deficiencies” when it came to parenting.
“From the time I was six years old I wanted to be a father,” Will reveals. “I loved how my family was, but there were massive critical deficiencies in my father’s parenting that I wanted to correct. By the time I was 10 years old, I remember looking at my father thinking I could do it better than him.”
He goes on to mention that his father, Willard Carroll Smith, Sr., also known as Daddy-O, had a “temper,” and Will says he was a “gentle” child, which doesn’t sound like it mixed very well at all.
“Like I was not a kid that you had to slap, or punch or beat,” Will continues. “So, you know, growing up in a household where physical aggression was approved of, that really chafed my hide. That hurt my spirit.”
‘Eating dinner is the same as war’
Will says his father was a “firm disciplinarian.” Obviously, that affected him in more ways than one. His father was in the military, and he wasn’t afraid of discipline.
“For Daddy-O, he was an old school, hard military-minded,” Will continues. “There was no quit in him. And he was a firm disciplinarian. He was in the Air Force, so he demanded order. The combination of order and teaching made him a very powerful role model and a psychological force. What he wanted to do is discipline natural reactions into your mind, so when it got hot, you didn’t have to think.”
Will mentions that his father “didn’t separate anything,” and he gives an eye-opening example. “Eating dinner is the same as war,” Will explains.
Will was extremely candid about his childhood, and says that he watched his father abuse his mother, and it truly affected him, as it would anyone. He marks it as the “biggest emotional scar” in his entire life. His father taught him many things, including what he didn’t want to do to his own children.
“Well, there are such beautiful qualities that he instilled that are a big part of what made me, me,” Will says. “And as the ying to every yang, I watched him beat up my mother. So the biggest emotional scar that I have in this lifetime, he delivered that also. He showed me a lot of things that I wanted to do, but he also showed me the things I would absolutely, positively, never do to my children.”
Will says that when his father would get angry, he would “turn into the dumbest person” Will had ever met. “As a kid I couldn’t understand it, but all of his wisdom disappeared.”
Will’s father passed away in 2016 from cancer. Despite their complicated relationship, it’s clear that Will learned a lot from the man who raised him.