Culture | Families
Steph Martin
Steph Martin

Stephanie Martin, a writer and editor in Colorado, has 20 years of Christian publishing experience.

Hollywood—Celebrity gossip sites buzzed with news that Jaden Smith, son of A-listers Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith, wanted legal emancipation for his 15th birthday. “He really wants to have his own place,” Will Smith said.

Jaden later dispelled the idea, joking that he’d be staying at his parents’ house for “20, 30 more years” because everything there is free.

Will Smith spoke about his modern-day parenting style, saying, “We generally don’t believe in punishment.” Instead, his kids have to explain why what they did was the “right thing” for their life.

When Jaden’s sister Willow shaved her head at age 12, her parents didn’t panic. “The rule in our house is you can do anything you want, and we don’t pull the parent card until danger is involved,” said Will Smith.

In Smith’s traditional upbringing, kids weren’t allowed to have opinions. So he understands “if kids just want to have command of their lives.”

Young actors sometimes seek emancipation so they can work longer hours or escape troubled home environments. But acquiring adult responsibilities at a young age has major consequences. Melissa Francis, who emancipated at 15, said, “I didn’t have a driver’s license; how would I get to school? I wasn’t organized enough to pay the rent, manage my schedule, go on auditions, work, and take care of my basic needs.”

Public-relations expert Gene Grabowski warned that Jaden Smith’s emancipation would reflect poorly on his famous folks. “Most adults will consider a decision to grant emancipation to Jaden to be irresponsible and a poor example for parents and teens everywhere.”


Discussion Questions:

  • Does this story make you feel jealous of Jaden? feel sorry for him? Explain. What would you think of the Smiths as parents if they let Jaden move forward with emancipation?
  • When, if ever, might the emancipation of minors be appropriate and beneficial? What pros and cons should young people and their families consider ahead of time?
  • What’s your reaction to Will Smith’s parenting style? Do you think his kids have too much freedom? are learning to make wise decisions? Explain. How might this parenting style affect the kids’ lives and choices in the future—both positively and negatively?
  • As a minor, would you want the freedom to do anything you want? Would you like to live without the fear of punishment? Explain. How has discipline helped you?
  • When you make a questionable choice, how do your parents usually react? Do you know right away when you mess up, or do you rely on your parents to set you straight?
  • To what degree are you comfortable sharing your feelings and opinions with other family members? How much do you think they value your opinions?
  • How strongly do you desire independence from your parents, and why? What are the best and worst parts of living under a parent’s roof?
  • What aspects of “real life” are you most looking forward to? What aspects do you dread or fear the most? Explain.

Scripture links: Proverbs 15:31-33; Proverbs 22:15; Matthew 10:34-39; Ephesians 6:1-4; Hebrews 12:7-11; 1 Peter 2:13-17.

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