Will Smith Reveals How the Idea of His 'Dream Family' Almost Tore His Real Family Apart

Will Smith is reflecting on how his fixation of his “dream family” actually almost alienated him from his kids Jaden and Willow.

During an episode of Kevin Hart’s Peacock show, Hart to Heart, Smith opened up about the events that led to a pivotal moment that would change his parenting style forever. The I Am Legend star began, “2010 was like the greatest year as an artist, as a parent. [Jaden’s movie] Karate Kid came out in June, [Willow’s single] ‘Whip My Hair’ came out in October. I’m building this dream of a family I’ve had in my mind,” Smith recalled.

He continued, “‘I’m going to do it better than my father did it.’ We’ve talked about it, my father was abusive. I told myself I would never have that kind of energy with my family and I had a dream, an idea of a family I was building. Pretty much 2010 to 2012 I had achieved everything I had ever dreamed.”

Although on paper the dream was unfolding in front of him as he always envisioned, the father of three vulnerably confessed, “Nobody in my family was happy. No one wanted to be in a platoon.” He added, “Willow was the first one to begin the mutiny and it was my first realization that success and money don’t mean happiness.”

“Up until that point, I really believed that you could succeed your way – to a house and a family – and you could win your way to happiness,” Smith admitted. “Material circumstances do not equal happiness and, in a lot of cases, they can be the reason you’re not happy. You can have so much stuff that it makes you miserable. That was my first pull-back and I was like, ‘Okay, what am I missing?’”

During a 2021 New York event, “Will Smith: An Evening of Stories with Friends,” the award-winning actor opened up about one moment with his daughter that chopped him down to size in 2010. When Willow was just 9 years old, she quickly rose to fame with her hit song and subsequent tour with Justin Bieber. Jaden’s Karate Kid had come out that same year, and Will recalled, “I was like, ‘I am parenting the sh*t out of these kids.’ I felt like I was doing really, really well.”

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After finishing a performance, the Men in Black star remembered his daughter walking backstage and telling him, “Thank you, Daddy. I’m finished.” When he told her she had to continue performing, Will recalled Willow asking, “It doesn’t matter to you that I’m done, Daddy?” In an act of protest, she came to breakfast with her head shaved bald.

“I’m looking and I’m like, ‘Got it. I got it, baby. I’m sorry. I apologize. You can stop,’” Will shared. “It was terrifying. I felt like I had been texting looking at my phone and stepped out into the street in front of a bus and Willow snatched me back.”

He continued, “As strange as it sounds, in that moment I discovered feelings. Because of my childhood, because of the way I was raised … I didn’t care about how I felt, so I damn sure didn’t care about how somebody else felt. My feelings didn’t matter in my childhood home. You did what you were told to do,” The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air alum explained.

“I had to really think about the question she was asking me,” Will admitted. “The question she was really asking was ‘Daddy, does it matter to you how I feel?’ It was so explosive in my mind. That was like a deep, existential question.” He concluded, “My parenting style changed in that moment.”

Before you go, check out Will & Jada Pinkett Smith’s best parenting quotes.

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