Not About That Privileged Life: Taraji P. Henson Makes Son Sit Out Of School To Pay For College

September 21, 2012  |  

Source: WENN

As someone who feels like an indentured servant to Sallie Mae, I’m struggling a bit with Taraji P. Henson’s parenting style.The actress appeared on Jimmy Falon earlier this week to talk about the next season of “Person of Interest” but when the late night host asked her about her 18-year-old son Marcel and whether she packed him up and shipped him off to college, she said quite the opposite. She kept him out of college to make him get a job and pay for school.

“Even though he is privileged, he doesn’t remember the bad times when we were eating Hamburger Helper and peanut butter and jelly for desert,” she told Jimmy. He remembers all the good times and I don’t want to raise this privileged kid, who’s out of touch, so I made him sit out the first semester and he has to get a job. He called his grandmother, he was like, ‘It’s hard out here, it’s hard to find a job.’ So I was like, ‘Yeah, I need you to know that.'”

“I need him to see how real it is out here. It builds character. I told him, ‘College is like an investment. I’m investing my money in your future, and if I feel like you’re a bad investment, I’m taking my money back.”

I’m hoping Taraji left out part of the story, like her son is an ungrateful rich snob, otherwise I don’t totally follow her thinking. I certainly get making her son work for his education but making him sit out of school to get a job that could never pay off the cost of that degree doesn’t translate to me. But that’s her boy. Hopefully he’ll be able to catch up when he’s finally allowed to enroll.

What do you think about Taraji keeping her son out of school?

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  • shar scu

    I totally get what she did!!!!!!! I have a son who started college recently and I understand exactly why she wanted her son to feel the real before she invested her money. Him learning how hard it really is would give him incentive to stay the course of college to his degree once he did enroll. Great plan Taraji!! I am sure I had the same option in my head as my son and I were preparing for his first year!!!

  • Benji Mane

    How is this even an article? Are there no writers on this site? I keep coming back hoping to read something in depth, researched and well thought out. Instead it’s something that reads like someone was typing with one had while eating popcorn and flipping through reality tv shows

  • baddvixentype

    good for her! she’s trying to show him that in order to live the way he is HE must work for it. Nothing worse then a depending man who cant provide for himself let alone others. showing him responsibility is great. She bettering him….doesnt mean she wont pay for it though, just that she wants him to show her he has what it takes to be able to take care of himself if need be. #JMO

  • Thatsmystory

    I totally agree with Taraji’s thinking. I have a step-daughter that went to school thinking that it was her time to be the life of every party! She failed EVERY ONE of her classes and thought nothing of it when she lost the few scholarships she did get because she was “privileged”. When my husband had to pay for the next 2 semesters, she didn’t care. She just moved to a more expensive dorm and proceeded to ask for even more spending money! When you have to pay for your education, or at least contribute towards it… appreciate it a whole lot more!!!! I know I appreciate mine!!

  • Tia

    You don’t have to be ungrateful and/or disobedient to be taught a lesson on life and anyone who has an education knows that it is life long. There are just as important lessons to be learned outside the classroom as there are in, if not more. I applaud Taraji.

  • Yeahfor Mom!

    I ain’t mad at her. Anything your work for, you treasure. Too many kids are getting too many things handed to them on a silver platter.

  • LMH

    She is trying to instill the idea that just as something can be handed to you, so can it be taken away. And God help you if you are not prepared if that day comes. She doesn’t want an indulged, infantalized grown man on her hands. She is trying to raise a responsible man……. there is something to be said for busting your butt for what you get. It makes you tough AND more appreciative of the fact that YOU earned it — it wasn’t handed to you by mama, daddy, or the government. Good for her. I knew there was something about this lady I liked 😀

  • I appreciate my education more because I pay for it. I took out loans, pay for it by working and even with my financial struggles I have a goal an I’m determined to finish. I’m not a parent but from the students perspective I appreciate the lessons my parents allowed me to learn on my own and I take pride in my education. Taraji is trying to give her son the same thing.

  • Laneé

    Catch up? Because you HAVE to finish college by 21 you just HAVE to? Taraji feels there are some character traits her son needs to learn so she’s teaching them to him. Leave the woman alone.

  • Pam

    Badly written article, sorry. Firstly, there really isn’t a problem with what Taraji is doing because 1) parents don’t have to pay for anything for their 18 year old adult offspring 2) people don’t HAVE to start college at the age of 18. Secondly, and most importantly, the article is full of assumptions and inaccuracies (a journalist’s worst enemy): depending on the school and the job, he could actually pay for a degree on his own. He won’t have to “catch up” on anything – he never enrolled so how can he be behind? He IS allowed to enroll, she’s just not paying for it. No one is stopping him from enrolling in college.

    I know this isn’t The New York Times or anything, but where are the journalistic standards here? Who is the editor-in-chief for this website? I know these days we want to be casual with commentary pieces and websites, but really? As many commenters have pointed out, this is a non-issue but the real kicker is how it is not written well.

  • I really don’t see the issue

  • You don’t know the value of anything until you have to earn the money to pay for it yourself. What most don’t seem to understand is you can go to college but that doesn’t mean you will graduate, that doesn’t mean you are guaranteed to go there and put your best effort forward. She was right to say that she is investing in him because she is but she knows her son if he doesn’t have a strong work ethic or he is not focused like so many aren’t at 18 then he is going to waste time, effort, and a lot of money bullshitting and partying like most who are 18 do. It’s not called the freshman flunk for nothing this article as usual is written from a slanted angle and until you are a parent you will never understand the actions of another parent.

  • Sorry but her logic makes sense 2 me!

  • Epiphany

    Her money … her business…. her child!!! Enough said!!!

  • DeepThinker

    Maybe he has not proven himself to be disciplined, mature and responsible enough to attend college. When I was in college I knew lots of kids that never went to class, partied, lied to their parents about their academic progress, and waited around for their parents to add money to their accounts so they could buy designer clothes at the mall and pay their car notes. Many of those kids flunked out after the first year. There was one girl who stayed in school for SEVEN years and went home pregnant and no degree.
    Taraji went to Howard and I am sure she knows the culture of spoiled kids that don’t have their priorities straight. I commend her on recognizing that he needs to be ready before sending him off.

  • SickOfRidiculous

    I’ve read this article thoroughly and have failed to find the big issue. I see no problem with Taraji forcing her son to work in order to make a contribution toward his education.


    I keep looking at her picture and all i can think of is Taraji really has strong features!

  • If her son lacks character or an appreciation of a good life, no job or college is going to change that. I’ve seen people struggle and make it and then turn around and look down on others.

    I personally think struggle is overrated. We have made it an art form!! Even though struggle may help you appreciate the good things and times in life, it also makes you bitter and cautious which eventually takes away the optimism in life. You’re always worried whether or not life will get difficult again. That’s no way to live.

    I struggle now so that my kids never have to. I’m not necessarily a better person for my struggles. I’m just wiser. Honestly with time and careful guidance, I could’ve obtained that wisdom a lot easier.

    • Machelle Kwan

      Amen to that. Struggle builds character, but I don’t want my kids to experience an ounce of what I did. Some things we go through in life are just unnecessary.

  • Taunya73

    She is talking one damn semester. Get a grip. #teamTaraji

  • Guest

    I really don’t know how to feel about this. Don’t most parents (if they are lucky enough to have it like that) pay for their children to go to college. My daughter is not even a year old yet and I’ve opened up a college saving fund for her. I could understand her wanting her son to work, but to pay for his whole education out of his own pocket is counterproductive. Working and going to school is no joke and it doesn’t make sense when your parents are in a position to pay for it. Paying for your child’s education is an investment in their future.

    • Lnyce

      Because she is not obligated to. I don’t give a damn if I am a millionaire my child is going to earn things through hard work and responsibility. Why not start with a investment as serious as college? If he flunks out then what? Money wasted.

    • mac

      I have a 3.93 GPA and hold down a job. Working and going to school is not only very doable, but builds character and work ethic. There comes a time when you cut the umbilical cord off and teach them to fend for themselves.
      I think this is why the general opinion about Generation Y is that we’re entitled brats. Too many parents are coddling their kids and calling it being a good parent.

      • Machelle Kwan

        Exactly. And then they resort to extreme measures like this to “whip” them into shape. If this kid is spoiled it’s her own doing. Rich and middle class always over indulge their kids and then cut the umbilical cord. They should have been taught practical knowledge about money all along. I started teaching my kids the value of a dollar when they were 5. But then again I”m not wealthy. These lessons seem to be more valuable to teach to kids to poor and working class people.

  • I commend Taraji. My son will be 18 in two months and is a senior. I can certainly identify with a child who is privileged and acts that way. Just ungrateful. After battles with trying to get him to study for the SAT, prepare, and plan for college, I have been thinking of doing the same thing, myself. Let him sit it out and let reality smack him upside his head. Maybe then he will want it for himself, and learn that you have to work hard to accomplish anything in this life.

  • mac

    *slow clap* I have a newfound respect for her, and this is similar to how I want to handle my future kids’ schooling.
    I’m in college right now and I see so many peers with no respect or value for money because mommy and daddy foot the bill. Some have never even had a job and are in their 20s.
    I very much applaud the fact that she’s set on building his character instead of raising some spoiled trust fund baby. You can tell this is a woman who hasn’t forgotten where she came from unlike a large portion of black Hollywood.

    To the author, I think you’re projecting because of your own situation. I seriously doubt she would make him take out loans. And even if for some odd reason she did, I’m sure she wouldn’t let him default on them.

    If you would remove your personal bias, I;m sure you would see this a very respectable thing she’s doing.

  • Jolina Dodson

    I never question why people decide to raise their children a certain way unless it is out right harmful. However, in my opinion you don’t need to experience every situation to know it is not right for you! I will split my military benefits between my two sons and I want them in college as soon as they graduate. As I sit over here in Afghanistan, I have made a significant sacrifice for them to further their education. So maybe she see’s something in her child that he needs this! One never knows.

  • Guest

    I feel people have many ways to rear a child. I on the other hand will split my military benefits between my two sons. I have my education and as a nurse in AF and sitting over here in Afghanistan

  • It makes perfect sense to me. It’s her money and he needs to acknowledge that and understand what it’s like to make his own. He didn’t make her money for her and she does not owe him a college ed.

  • autumnbreeze

    This is one of the reasons why I love Taraji…she keeps it real! I completely agree with her, I think more celebrities should have that mindset.

  • rosemary davis

    It’s called tough love and being responsible.Why should he not help pay for his college expenses?? what would he do if she was not there??That’s the problem with so call priveleage kids they want everything hand to them on a silver platter, however I don’t agree with her making him miss a whole semester working this will prolong his time in college.What she should do is make sure he has some type of job while in college so that he can help himself and defray some of the cost but I urge her not too delay this because it may get too a point where he does not want to go and this day and time you can’t force an 18 year old do anything he or she does not want to do.

  • TatumPascal

    I have to say, I agree with the author of this article. She can afford to put her son through school, without sacrificing her own standard of living and taking out loans, so why not? My parents were blessed enough to pay for my sister and I to go to university. It is nice to start off in the working world without tens of thousands of dollars in debt. That’ s all I’m saying. She doesn’t have to support him for the rest of his life.

    • bkabbagej

      And what do you owe your parents for your degree? I’m sure your parents would love to have used their money to do some of their hearts desires and used their money on what they worked so hard for. Who wouldn’t want to start off life with owing tens of thousands of dollars and you could have, working hard and earning scholarships while attending school. While giving your parent the joy of knowing they will have a bigger nest egg and their daughter earn her own degree! Once you’ve reached adulthood (18), the rest of your life has started.

  • guess

    why can’t he work and go to school to keep him busy. That’s what my son is doing. And when finish with school then he will pay for his schooling. There are ways to teach, but to keep him from school is not good, I am glad its for one semester.

  • Only a person with no children or have yet to have one of those hard time meals would write this in this manner…..what Tariji has now she has worked hard to get I wish there were more parents like her. We make our kids earn everything even video game time. So that they know you have to earn everything you get in this life this is what you would call decreasing negative behavior and increasing and reinforcing positve results so if you have a problem with it I will SMH….and Pray

  • Shay

    I totally agree with Taraji. My son has just turned 18. He’s taking classes at the local community college and he has to work. As each semester goes by and he proves to me that he’s not wasting my money, I will allow him to take a larger load and work less hours. Though we are no where near being well off, he seems to think the world owes him something (I think it’s this generation). I’m not going to waste my money if he doesn’t do well in school. Besides, I have my own student loans to pay for and I’m not going to work until I’m 80 to pay his off.

  • kierah

    When you are financially responsible for something, you tend to appreciate it more. He’ll skip fewer classes when he recalls how hard he worked to pay for that class. Not a bad lesson to learn at all.

  • I see nothing wrong with her parenting style I wish we had more like her.

  • I don’t agree with the article at all. Taraji having money has nothing to do with her son. She never said he acted spoiled or privileged, just that she wanted him to earn the investment. All to often we ridicule parents for being good parents. She has raised a man, at what point should he become one? His education has to be something that he takes responsibility for and allowing him the opportunity to recognize his options without an education will be motivation to achieve his educational goals.

  • Candacey Doris

    As long as he does get an education, I’m not mad at her. I worked all the way through college as well as taking out loans. I graduated with the least loans of my friends.And you better believe i never skipped class. AA lot of people sort of take college for granted and play around. They treat it like an extension of high school.Maybe he was acting like that, in which case she’s giving him an early wake up call.

  • sexcgenius

    If you have a problem with what she said, you are most likely not a parent or a poor one.

  • Hmmm…well, I absolutely, vehemently agree with Ms. Henson’s decision to teach her son life values via tactile measures. And, it appears, based upon her commentary, it’s clearly working. He’s out there looking and identifying with the working class making an effort to make his life’s contribution, and I think that’s a demonstration of solid parenting. All in all, while it certainly is your right to “struggle” with her parenting style, it certainly wasn’t worth the article. Had nothin’ else to say, huh? I got’cha.

  • kate

    I didn’t agree with her reasoning. She sounded dumb for the most part..those lessons should have been taught before he reached adulthood….however in the aspect of students not being ready immediately following high school and need more time to mature to ensure a degree, or you have better chances on not flunking out..I feel any parent, but her hamburger helper stance, I want him to remember where we came from…ahh NO !

  • bkabbagej

    I’m in total agreement with those of you that feel he should be made to work for awhile before starting school. I was 21 when I went away to college (lived in NY, went to school in NC), I can’t begin to tell you the attitude and behavior of the students who’s parent paid for their education and those of us who worked and borrowed our way through and completed w/degrees. Alot of those precios little darlings came to school with cars (forbidden for freshman), steam trunks filled with clothing and bad attitudes. They also left with poor grades, plenty of partying and worse attitudes, because they had no investment in their education, nothing earned nothing gained. I personally don’t believe in paying for anyone’s education but my own. I will help you along the way but I will not totally pay.
    For some reason in life when you work and earn something, (anything) you value it more and it really becomes yours through and through. Also there is no such thing as being behind with your education, one can continue to educate oneself all of one’s life!!! Starting and stopping as life requires until the level you’re satisfied with is completed.

    • mac


      • NEEMA

        very true when you work and earn something you value it more i can so relate to it i was so excited when i was finally able to buy my own tv first year of college it sounds silly but that was my first major solo purchase (no parents/siblings matching my savings etc) and i cherish that moment still i was so proud of myself!

  • Candice

    This sounds like it’s only for one semester, so I don’t think it’s a big or bad idea. She wants him to be in-touch with the 99%. Way to go mom!

  • Mztisa

    There are waaaay too many people that feel they are owed something. I think its great that she’s teaching her son that in the real world you aren’t entitled to a damn thing! College is expensive and if having him earn his own money helps him appreciate the $ she is investing in him I’m all for it. Let her raise her child how she sees fit!

  • Ms. Berry

    I have to agree with all the posts prior…I think if anything, those who come from a privileged family should automatically assume the responsibility of knowing what it’s like to have to commit to a serious investment w/out assuming mommy or daddy’s wealth…all too many of us have had to pay our own way and for that I think it’s made me personally take a better look at what I want to spend “my” money on rather than spend mommy and daddy’s money frivolously…

  • eyeconic1

    I don’t see anything wrong with what she did. She said she made him sit out for the “first semester” to make his see what it is like out here. Most kids that go right to college do not transition well they feel the independency and party, tehy fall of in grades becasue there is now nobody over you forcing you to do your work. You eitehr do it or fail. They may not adjust well and want to come home and not be so far away. Or you have the children who go to school and spend the next 4 years switching majors while they figure out life. So, I think it is good that she gave him a chance to see what people in the regular world are doing and just how much it takes to make it out here. God willing it will help him aprpeciate what he has, how hard his mother worked and what she can provide for him. The first semester he can transition from being dependent on her and start to find himself and independence. She knows him better than we do. I also think it builds character. She didn’t say she was abandoning him; but its time to cut the string. After all she did raise him to be a MAN.

  • SMH@YOUR backwards thinking. She did not say she WOULD NOT pay for it. She’s teaching him a lesson that College won’t. The world don’t hand you NOTHING. And most people work for everything they have. Even his Mama! She wasn’t always successful as she is now. And you don’t CATCH UP in college….WTF he’s going to start as a True Freshman.

  • Anndrex

    Who said parents are responsible for paying for their kids college education? This author seems to be throwing shade because HER parents didn’t pay for her schooling. Do well, get scholarships, do work study, get loans, educate yourself, go to a two-school. Do whatever you need to to do to get an education. Parents who take on huge amounts of debt for children are CRAZY! And passing out money all willy nilly is not a good idea. I agree with Taraji. There really isn’t a story here.

  • Good for her, if he was acting up and not doing his work I would do the samething college isnt cheap hell… I know that for a fact and experience… Even if she does have the funds why waste your money.. Thumbs up!

  • Shuga_B

    I don’t see the problem with this. I don’t see a reason to critique her for it. Many students have to sit out a semester or longer to work without the help of a privileged life. That’s life and I commend her for doing what she thinks is best for her child. I hope he gets the lesson.

  • Merriegirl

    He didn’t spoil himself. For the past 18 years she has been raising him. Children should not have access to everything they want through out their adolescence, whether their parents have the funds or not. It frustrates me when I watch parents raise their children in a particular way (spoiled, obnoxious, rude, privileged) and then penalize them for being that way.If she wanted him to have a strong work ethic at 18, she should have required him to get a job at 14. One can not thinking that effective parenting begins at 18.

    • mac

      Seeing as how she only really started to get big roles about 4 years ago or less, when the boy was probably 13-14, I think it’s safe to say he hasn’t been spoiled his whole life.

    • Machelle Kwan


  • JustSaying

    Where’s the problem?

  • realadulttalk

    I don’t understand her logic either. Especially when statistics state that kids who sit out after high school (for whatever reason) rarely go on to college. I’m all for her teaching him responsibility…but he could learn that by going to school and working simultaneously like most students.

    • Dee

      I took a year off between high school and college and I am currently working on my PhD. Depends on what the kid spent that time between high school and college doing. If they spent it doing nothing then yea they probably wont move on to college. If they spent it working and trying to figure out what next and actually have a drive and ambition, they will go to college.

      • realadulttalk

        And you would be considered an anomaly…I based my response on statistics.

        • Nikki

          Statistics mean nothing. It’s quite possible that many of the people polled in those studies had no plans to go to college in the first place. I know many people who didn’t go to college right away who are currently college grads. Not everyone is ready as soon as high school ends. I applaud her for teaching him that everything will not be handed to him. SHE’S rich, he’s not.

  • She Speaks

    Hopefully they don’t live in CA…it’s nearly impossible to get into a state school here now. There are enrollment freezes along with unit caps. If you get accepted, you NEED to go otherwise you never know when the next time they are accepting students again.
    Best of luck to him in college.

  • Ezi_ez

    she didn’t say she wasn’t paying for college though…he just has to sit out a semester before she will pay…

  • Navronis

    By saying her son doesn’t remember the bad times DOES imply he is acting ungrateful. Kids in Germany take 1-2 years to work and then go to college so they mature and appreciate their education more. in this job market and economy kids w 4 year degrees work at ups or equivalent jobs that don’t require degrees, whereas the could have gained life experience early and avoided thousands of dollars in loans.

  • Sheree

    Hate to say but your article is reaching for a story here. She did not say she would make him take loans. There is never anything wrong with a parent parenting for the better of their child. WE should not try to create a controversy or issue with Tariji because of this. Her comments in your article totally de-value this article. She stated explicitly her reason for her decision. So you have a problem with that enough to write an article because ……you have a student loans? Not a good look to put a good sis and Mom down on this. Tsk, tsk, tsk!!!

    • Sheree

      Just want to say something to those who do not agree with her thinking. Not every adult is the child they were. For that reason she knows there is a lesson that needs to be taught. This article should not have been written. WE should not be trying to call Sis out for her decision and make a public spectacle of it – its not right. Just because there are blogs and everyone has an opion and keyboard – journalist/bloggers need to be more responsible. This could ignite negativity toward her when there is no need. just sayin folks!

      • I agree Ms Sheree. I think the article shouldve been written but not in the light that it was done. If you have never received food stamps, lived paycheck to paycheck, lived in the inner city (The Hood), then you cant understand the lesson. (Clearly Brande Victorian hasnt) No he cant pay for the degree he wants and take care of himself…THATS THE POINT! Shes showing him the sacrifice the average person has to make, the struggle they have to go through. Taraji came from the bottom and wanted her son to get that.

      • Very well said!