Jada Pinkett Smith admitted on her popular Facebook Watch talk show, “Red Table Talk,” that she used shame as a parenting tool on her daughter, Willow Smith. Monday’s episode featured Brene Brown, a best-selling author and research professor at the University of Houston who has studied vulnerability, courage, shame, fear, self-doubt, and empathy. Brown explained how shame is correlated with violence, suicide, bullying, and oppression and it can be damaging when parents use it. It’s called the “Master emotion” in her field, she explained. “For children, shame is the threat of being unlovable” and to be unloved means you can die. Her words had an obvious impact on the family
“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.” The professor admitted. Jada called this mindset, “something we’re taught” and explained, “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.”
Willow said the word “detrimental” at the same time as her mom but smiled and said “I forgive you...I remember but I forgive you.” They asked her to share an example and Willow recalled, “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 but “That had a lot to do with me not being able to handle my own tears,” she said.
Willow’s grandma Adrienne Banfield-Norris and Jada remembered the intimidating look they both learned to give their children. Brown said 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 sounded hopeful and explained, “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.”