By Courtney Garcia, theGrio.com
Rumors that Jaden Smith might be looking to move of his famous parents’ home and become an “emancipated minor” were put to rest when the young star and his dad, Will Smith, clarified the situation to Ellen DeGeneres on her show Wednesday morning.
Contrary to the gossip, the 14-year-old says he is staying put.
“Here’s the thing I need to explain: I’m not going anywhere,” Jaden told DeGeneres, “the thing that people don’t get is that everything at [Will Smith’s] house is free. So I can get anything and everything I want at his house. So I think I’m going to be there for 20 [to] 30 more years.” The young actor added that his father “says as soon as I have a movie that’s bigger than one of his movies then I have to get my own house.”
The story initially circulated when Will reportedly told British tabloid The Sun that Jaden, who co-stars with Will in his film ‘After Earth,’ asked for “freedom” from his parents as a present for his 15th birthday. Perhaps more significant, Will and wife Jada Pinkett-Smith seemed open to their son’s wishes.
Will explained that he had a strict military father at home when he was growing up, and accordingly, felt Jaden’s request for more freedom was warranted.
“If kids just want to have command of their lives, I understand,” Will said. “It’s very similar for Jaden and me — your father’s the biggest movie star in the world, and you’re struggling for your little piece of dignity in this extreme shadow.”
But Will’s publicist later dismissed the emancipation rumors, telling Gossip Cop, “It’s not real.”
That’s probably a good thing, say experts.
Kid stars often grow up too soon
To be emancipated as a minor, Jaden would have had to be released from the custody and control of his parents, and allowed to conduct business on his own and with full contractual capacity. The young star would have had to file court documents, and likely prove financial self-sufficiency in order to process his solo status.
While Jaden certainly earns a substantial income from his work, his emotional maturity is a decidedly different matter, and potentially cause for concern if he did decide to move out early.
“A lot of times you see this happening where a child is in a household that they’ve had to grow up very quickly, and they didn’t have an adequate childhood,” Dr. Judy Ho, a licensed clinical psychologist tells theGrio. “You can see this happening in celebrity families because they’re exposed to a lot of different types of things that normal children aren’t exposed to at their age. When they’ve grown up too quickly, there’s this idea of, ‘Well, I’ve been taking care of myself anyway…I feel ready, I want to be on my own; I want to be an adult.’ Unfortunately, some of the types of problems with emancipation is that even if a child does feel ready, they usually haven’t processed what has happened in their upbringing that led them to this decision.”
Ho, who is board-certified in child and adolescent psychology, points out that despite possibly being mature for his years, most children Jaden’s age have not acquired the skills they need to act as “competent adults.”
Plus, the world doesn’t often accept them easily.
“Even if you are emancipated and living on your own, society’s not going to treat you like an adult because you’re still 15,” Ho adds. “There’s going to be a lot of problems, and red tape and social issues that come up.”
Next: Letting their kids ‘use their best judgment’
Beyond movies, Jaden’s career spans into the music and fashion industries. He began earning street cred as a rapper after Justin Bieber featured him on the track “Never Say Never” in 2011, and subsequently, he put out a mixtape of his own the following year. In November, he launched his own clothing line, MSFTS, a brand of skateboarder-type casual wear including hoodies, t-shirts and pants.
Explaining his approach with Jaden, Will indicated that his and Jada’s strategy has always been to let their kids use their best judgment.
“We generally don’t believe in punishment,” Will told The Sun. “From the time Jaden was 5 or 6 we would sit him down, and all he has to do is be able to explain why what he did was the right thing for his life…The rule in our house is you can do anything that you want, and we don’t pull the parent card until danger is involved.”
Yet from Ho’s perspective, Jaden’s alleged cry for autonomy doesn’t typically hit lightly for a family.
“There is a sense of loss usually from the parent,” she points out. “They feel rejected by the child, it can definitely lead to a lot of familial conflict.”
Of course, other contingencies would play into Jaden’s situation. Celebrities typically have a team of advisors on hand assisting with their every need, but keeping those consultants in check requires a senior level of experience.
“As a 15-year-old, you know very little about the way the world is supposed to work on a lot of practical matters,” Ho observes. “You see this all the time when celebrities go bankrupt because they trusted the wrong advisers…And then because he is a celebrity, there are going to be people who want to get close to him for other reasons, so he may get taken advantage of; he may be naïve socially.”
Similarly, Dr. Judy Rosenberg, a psychologist and founder of Be The Cause, suggests the repercussions of freedom for a child star like Jaden could stretch beyond financial matters into his personal life. Jaden has already been romantically linked to other celebrities, including Kylie Jenner and Stella Hudgens, sister of Vanessa Hudgens.
“It sounds like he’s already taking on a lot of adult roles, and because he’s taking on a lot of adult roles, he’s probably thinking he’s an adult,” Rosenberg remarks. “What I’ve found when children are prematurely launching out of the house, and they don’t have time to grow up, then the growing up takes place out of the home. It can get messy in terms of decision making.”
Jaden’s off to a good start
Needless to say, keeping up with the Smith family has never been quite the same as the Joneses.
Will and Jada are A-list movie stars whose 16-year marriage has long been the subject of sensational rumors. Daughter Willow, 12, followed in her big brother’s footsteps and jumped into the performance fray early. As a pop musician, she became the youngest recording artist signed to Jay-Z’s record label RocNation with her hit “Whip My Hair,” and has appeared in several movies.
In a recent interview with theGrio, Jada justified her and Will’s decision to let their children take on Hollywood.
“As a parent I will never ask my children to be less,” she said. “I’m going to educate my children and empower them in a way that they can have whatever, because when you want to be a giant in this world you gotta be able to confront all of that, and I expect my children to be giants, in whatever nature they decide.”
According to Black Enterprise, the Smith family is worth an estimated $232 million as a unit. That figure breaks down individually as: Will Smith, $200 million; Jada Pinkett-Smith, $20 million; Jaden Smith, $8 million; and Willow Smith $4 million.
In other words, Jaden would definitely be able to hit the ground running, once he’s truly ready to strike out on his own.
Rosenberg adds that if Jaden ultimately decides to leave home at a young age, it wouldn’t necessarily be tragic.
“It could be a sign he’s responsible at a younger age, and maybe [Will] can feel some sort of assurance that he’s hit maturity a little earlier,” she says. “That would suggest he [and Jada] did a good job as a parent.”