Jada Pinkett Smith admits she used 'shame as a parenting tool' with daughter Willow

Jada Pinkett Smith and daughter Willow Smith got candid about their relationship during a recent episode of Red Table Talk.

Monday’s episode featured Brene Brown, a best-selling author and research professor at the University of Houston, who has studied vulnerability, courage, shame and empathy. At one point during the discussion, Brown explained how shame is used an oppressive tool and can also be damaging when used as a parenting tool.

“For children, shame is the threat of being unlovable,” she said. “I think about the times where I’ve used shame with one of my children. And it’s the most devastating thing I can think of.”

It was then that Jada called this mindset, “something we’re taught.”

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - JULY 10:  Producer/actress Jada Pinkett Smith and actress Willow Smith attend the Haute Living Celebrates Jada Pinkett Smith with Armand de Brignac event at Catch LA on July 10, 2017 in West Hollywood, California.  (Photo by Rochelle Brodin/Getty Images for Haute Living)
Jada Pinkett Smith opens up about parenting daughter Willow. (Photo: Rochelle Brodin/Getty Images for Haute Living)

“I’m like, ‘Oh my god.’ I’m like, ‘I never even saw it that way.’ But I did really try, especially in raising Willow, in trying not to put shame around her social development. You know, trying to raise a young woman and what a young woman goes through, but not recognizing how detrimental that is. Using shame as a parenting tool,” Jada admits.

“I forgive you,” Willow responded.

The 19-year-old elaborated on a time where she experienced a disappointing moment where she felt like Jada shamed her.

“When I was younger, I would just get super emotional and like I get super emotional now,” she said. “But you would look at me and then you would just be like, ‘Yeah, you can like cry, but do it over there. Like go into your room and do it over there.’ Like you pushing me away for crying like I’m a bad person for crying.”

Jada explained that she had a lot of those moments as a parent.

“...That had a lot to do with me not being able to handle my own tears,” she said.

Both Jada and her mother, Adrienne Banfield-Norris, remembered the look they had learned to give to intimidate their children. Brown said she knew that look very well and explained that it all comes down to fear.

“Let me tell you something, I have that look. I can be scary when I’m scared. I gotta check myself when I’m scared. I did a look the other day, my husband said, ‘That makes my eyes water. Like, I’m afraid when you do that look ‘cause it’s the look I had growing up...’ Had you not shamed your children, you would have been shamed by your friends.”

Jada admitted that she had moments like that when she was experiencing her own inner struggles, but recognized that things were changing in the way that parents are communicating with their children today.

“I do recognize those moments and it had a lot to do with me not being able to handle my own vulnerability at that time. Just growing up in those environments we grew up in, you know, and it’s a different playing field now.”

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