Will Smith Says Because Of Slavery African American Parents Tend To Treat Their Kids Like Property

May 24, 2013  |  


Source: WENN

Yup, he’s still talking. He’s still on the same subject too, but this time around Will Smith is expanding his musings on parenting beyond the Smith household to a few observations on African American parenting in general.

The actor sat down for a one-on-one with Haute Living to discuss his latest feature, After Earth, which he stars in alongside son Jaden, and the mag asked if there were any similarities behind the pair’s on-screen relationship and the one they share in real life. The 44-year-old said he and Jaden inevitably brought some of their own father-son dynamic to the characters, but the more interesting answer came when Will was asked whether there were any similarities between the way he was raised and how he’s raising his son and daughter. Here’s what he said.

“There are definite similarities. I grew up in a family business so my father, my mother and all my brothers and sisters worked in the family business, so that’s really the only way I know how to parent. In real situations, you are going out in the real world and you are earning real money. The things you say and do in the world will affect the family for real. My style of parenting is very similar to that of my parents, minus the concept of ownership. I think that, specifically in African American households, the idea coming out of slavery, there’s a concept of your children being property and that was a major part that Jada and I released with our kids. We respect our children the way we would respect any other person. Things like cleaning up their room. You would never tell a full-grown adult to clean their room, so we don’t tell our kids to clean their rooms. Actually, we tell our kids ‘you don’t have a room, that’s our room and we are letting you borrow it.’ So the same way you would say to an adult if you let them use car, you say, ‘Yo man, clean my car! Don’t drive around all filthy like that!’ And it’s perfectly reasonable for you to want an adult to clean your car, so we feel it’s perfectly reasonable to ask our kids to clean the rooms that we are letting them use.”

Well that’s an interesting nugget to think on. Slavery has certainly left African Americans with a number of mental scars and behaviors still running rampant today, but I wonder whether this is really one of them. I’ve most definitely witnessed the property dynamic among parent-child relationships but I’m not completely sure it’s a concept specific to African Americans or a result of enslavement. Plenty of parents, black, white, red, and yellow, seem to take an “I brought you into this world and I can take you out if you don’t fulfill the obligations laid out for you” approach to parenting simply because of the authority dynamic and the idea of giving life to someone and having control over how they live it as a result.

On a lighter note, Will addressed the emancipation talk that was spurred from another interview he and Jaden did in April. At the time, the hands-off dad seemed to be saying he was going to let his son emancipate himself and go out on his own at 14, but now he insists his mini-me isn’t going anywhere.

“Yeah, that was a joke! I made a joke. He is definitely not going anywhere; he is so scared of being out on his own. Willow is probably going to be emancipated before Jaden! I think I was in Tokyo where I made a joke that if he has a day where his movie is bigger than one of mine then there’s no reason for him to live in my house. His 15th birthday is coming up so he can probably be emancipated.”

Well that’s good to know. But back to this property business. Do you think African American parents tend to treat their kids as such because of slavery?


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  • alasia min

    well i don’t know about it being related to slavery but around the world kids are treated as property, usually in Black and Asian families

  • Bre

    There’s no fuckin difference between beating and “whooping”. That’s just a euphemism for beating so take 800 back seats will u please?? And what idiot in their right mind wishes they had parents that “kept them in check” by “whooping” (beating). Those kids must have been outta their minds. Seriously.

  • Bre

    So u think parents prepare children for life by beating the f&ck outta them??? Way to go. U must b a great parent(sarcastically).

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  • Tater

    You are 100% correct Brande Victorian. Will is losing his mind on this point. Others things he is spot on. The part “I brought you in-I can take you out” is right on.

  • darrelll

    How long, are we the black community, going to blame slavery for our current situations? Prosperous!!! If we learned nothing from slavery we learned to adapt and overcome. This lazy generation wants everything now and are not willing to go through the process of making things happen the right way.

  • Topdown1

    Kids need to be shown respect, as I believe respect is a two way street. You can make them fear you but respect must be earned. This is accomplished by setting a good example and being a good role model. Kids also need discipline. Self discipline starts out as parental discipline and becomes internalized over the years. Most of all kids need to know that their parents love them very much. This is the most important ingredient in having high self esteem, and will serve them all of their lives.

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  • Something’s did carry over from slavery however sane people must realize that Will Smith got a lot of money and if his child get too far out of line he can use his vast fortune to help him make correction if poor or middle class black people don’t keep their arms around their children they get gangs, prison and a trip to the morgue! Poor people can’t parent like rich people do because they have less room for error, remember rich parents have nannies to come to their house and help nurture their children, poor and middle class children at best get to get up early every morning and go to day care run by low paid workers!

  • scottsdalebubbe

    If slaves are property and have economic value to the slaveholder, given the number of children of any race who are neglected by society, by abandoning fathers and and by overworked mothers, plus those who are physically, mentally and sexually abused, then someone is not taking good care of their property. Property that has economic value must be cared for, invested in, nurtured, and protected. A society and parents who do not do that are treating children like they are disposable, not like they have value of any kind.

  • FromUR2UB

    Their parenting style may seem very unconventional to alot of black people, but that doesn’t mean that the kids have no guidance or supervision. There’s a big difference between children who can do whatever they want because no one cares about where they are and what they’re into, and children who are encouraged to spread their wings while someone walks alongside them. He and Jada are very involved in their children’s lives, appear to spend time talking to them, and are probably more protective of them than people think. All they are trying to do is teach their kids to be confidant and take risks. They have the means and resources to give their kids opportunities that many people can’t, so they are taking full advantage of them. It’s the duty of a parent to help their childen go farther and higher than they have. That’s what they are trying to do.

    • Bre

      Exactly. It’s called authoritative parenting. There’s a difference between neglect and will’s style of parenting

  • Josie

    I think everyone just needs to take a step back and not try to read so hard into what Will Smith is saying. First of all he is not trying to pull the race card and say that African Americans are the only one’s that tend to treat their children like slaves. He just happens to be African American and since slavery is undeniably part of his heritage this is how he defines part of himself. If he was any other ethnicity he would have defined his heritage in that particular manner. Secondly, why do people have to analyze everything that pops out of a celebrities mouth. He is just giving his points of view. By nature Will seems to have a fun, outgoing, comedic, and when he needs to a serious personality. I think he was just expressing himself in that manner and didn’t expect someone to take him so literally.

  • Bin

    Read Frederick Douglass’ bio and you will understand completely what Mr. Smith is referring to.

  • SquarePeg

    I think you’re mis-reading Will’s statement. He relates to his own upbringing and how HE felt he was being parented. Will and Jada have an interesting mode of parenting indeed and if you ask them a specific question, they will give you a specific answer. He did say the ownership thing its not just specific to African-Americans but is a dynamic seen in much of parenting, then and now, no matter what ethnic background. Please don’t read more into what Will said that he didn’t say. You are distorting his statements to create controversy. Stop it! Please.

  • rose

    All these pop up ads are really annoying and take away from the actual story being told. It’s such a turn off, I have no reason to visit this website again if I’m just going to be bombarded by ads.

  • hopesaprincess

    well gee, ive never been enslaved so im going to say no. i think he’s an idiot. i have a daughter. she is MINE because i gave birth to her and because i take care of her. i dont own her but she is mine. she belongs to me. i think every single mom, white black red purple green or blue feel thisway. jada and will have issues. id like for them to just shut up and make movies.

  • Jay Trevy

    He has a point, I completely agree with him.

  • How myopic are Will’s views! As you know or should know, birth certificates and/or marriage licenses validate that any issue from the marriage and/or the person named on the birth certificates are owned/property of that particular state/country. There’s more to licensing and certificates than meets the eye. So, you have a birth certificate, guess what, YOU ARE PROPERTY.

  • Wina

    Black parents may have to be harder on their children. If you pay attention, in most cases whites go home or to rehab, while blacks go to jail or the morgue. Black parents train their children to stay in line because if they don’t the justice system will. If their parenting style is so great why is his son wanting to free himself from his parents. Will and Jada will see in the near future just how things really work.

  • Perhaps

    I think he may have a point. I’m 26 years old, married,living in a foreign country and my parents still treat me like a child. Around the time of my engagement, I moved back home to help my parents with my grandparents while my little sister went off to her first year of college and even then they treated me as a child. My father would argue with me over my life choices, demeaning all the accomplishments and choices I was making or have made so far because he didn’t agree with them while my mother argued with me about my wedding and how she wanted it to be and how she felt I should look when I leave the house even though I dress better than most women my age in the area. Any time I would get compliments, she wouldn’t say a word, but smile and nod. I was stressed and emotionally exhausted to a point I don’t think there was a week that went by that I didn’t end up in tears. My father would become more harsh when I couldn’t hold the tears in during his rants about me. If I even raise my voice a slight half decibel, both my parents would fly off the handle and ask who am I yelling at. Yet, I’m the only one who is talking calmly. My parents even made me 45 minutes late to my own wedding and barely engaged with the guests and my husband’s family at the reception even though there was only 16 of us including my husband and myself. They don’t have much respect for me, but want me to constantly respect them even when they are wrong. They wanted me to give them grandchildren because their friends’ kids have them even though I wasn’t ready and was engaged to my husband who they didn’t even bring up during this conversation. I’ve accomplished more than most of the people they know including themselves, yet I’m still treated as a child.

  • Sandbrn

    I agree to some extent but I think some of that mentality is seen in children raised in poorer families, rather than families that have access to better and higher education. The more education you have the more open you are to broadening your horizons and moving outside of family bonds. That does not mean that you leave family in the dust, it means that you are more apt to spread your wings and fly with family pushing you forward rather than holding on to you.

  • kittymabach

    i agree …just watch parents with their kids but of course black will deny it up and down and give him backlash

  • Guest

    I don’t think it’s as much as we view our children as property as we know that we are responsible for them. Society holds us responsible and accountable (as they should) for our offspring, so therefore we have to be diligent about parenting. Most reasonable people realize that they don’t own other people including their children so I don’t think that it’s really an issue for African American’s or anyone else for that matter. Maybe that’s just the way he sees the world.

  • Christian

    Simply put, he has a point and an opinion. that’s it. I don’t raise my children like that because I can’t afford to. He can. What his son and daughter do has ZERO affect on what I do. I don’t like talking about parenting to other parents because someone always think they have a better way to parent. Raise your children, hope they turn out as decent adults and be there for them along the way. That’s it.

  • Lee

    If Will is still recovering from slavery, then I must still be recovering from the potato famine.

    • Bits


  • Kathy Dorce

    I am a white parent (mother) of twin girls, now 46. This is what I think of the parent/child dynamic: My kids belonged to me, they were in my charge and I was responsible for their very lives. They must cooperate with me in my job to keep them safe, healthy and learning how to be a productive, happy member of society when they are on their own. It is not a democracy but a benevolent dictatorship with the most important characteristic being love. It isn’t easy when they do grow up to let them go after having their lives in your hands but if you have done your job well and you have taught them independence and responsibility, you will transition into an adult relationship that will be as rewarding as bringing up baby!

    • kittymabach

      why r u intrigued with a site about and for black women?

    • Catrice Allen


  • Nope

    Sorry Will, I agree with you, but you should know Black folks only like talking about our heritage of slavery when we can guilt trip OTHERS about it.

    • Say What?

      I understand exactly what you’re saying and how you feel about it, but not all of us are like that. What kills me though is how we’ve come so far and yet many chose to stay behind and buy into the ignorance. I do understand that there was and still is someone waiting with something at every corner to try to prevent us from succeeding and when we do they feel the need to remind us that we’re still “just black or a “n****r” That being said many black people I’ve met especially the younger ones look at life with a defeatist outlook as if there’s no point in trying. Also as you can see from many of the other comments posted here if you deviate from what black people have been doing for forever you’re suddenly ashamed to be black or just wrong because there’s only one way to do everything in our community.

  • Misc Mel

    I agree with him. The black community is almost entirely delusional. This concept that the community is in the shape it’s in because people no longer beat their kids is B.S. Every black person I know still beats their kids….like slaves. Even when that parent beat his girls for supposedly twerking on the internet, black people were co-signing that mess like they never saw Roots.

    In any case, the black community has been a mess for the last 50 years. Stop acting like we just went nuts. For all the murders here in Chicago today we are STILL consistently 300 to 400 less per year than back in the 70’s. Kids were wild back then, parents used to come to school and jump the teachers, parents were neglectful, black kids ran the streets unsupervised, and darn near EVERYBODY did drugs (PCP and Heroin anyone?)

    I love when black people say “back in the day the neighbor used to whip kids and send them home” I’m calling skrait B*U*!*!*3*H*I*T. The quickest way to get your house burned down back in the day was to hit someone elses kids. Black mommas ain’t NEVA EVA EVA EVA let no one hit their kids….ESPECIALLY their boys. I remember growing up in Columbus, GA and the chick down the street got the broom at the boys for riding their bikes in her grass. My grandma and the other 3 mommas went down there to kick that old lady’s butt. Ain’t nothing changed people. I do understand though. Any people who has been through what we have would make up good times too.

    • Nope

      Great points, and I agree with you. Whenever people say things like “the good ol days” I always wonder 1) when exactly was that? and 2) for whom exactly?

      • Bre

        I know right-damn sure wasn’t the good ol days for the poor children

    • Bre

      Praise freakin god- thank u!!!!!!!! U r soooooooooooooooooooooo right!!!!! I agree 10000%

  • pickneychile

    I do like what he said about its his room or his car and he lets his kids borrow them. That’s how my parents acted when it came to us living in their house. But I don’t think the effects of slavery has anything to do with parents who view it differently.

  • realadulttalk

    Will, those are not full grown adults…they are children. If you tell them as children to clean their rooms, it’s in the hopes that as an adult they’ll do these things b/c it is the right thing to do.

  • Darling

    Hmm, one thing I notice with whytes is that they do speak about their children as if they are a neighbor, a friend, someone they’ve come to know. For example, you might hear a mother say, “It’s been great getting to know who Anna is.” Not, my daughter, my baby, my child. And why are you getting to know her like you met her on the street? It always sounded really removed to me. Just an observation…

    • Just saying!!

      That’s interesting..

    • Bits

      it does sound like a removed parent would say something like that but as a black mother I can relate to that type of mentality/understanding regarding my children. when i gave birth to my first child i remember being in awe at how ‘un-alike’ he was from both me and my husband. it was very evident to me that even as a newborn my son was his own person…an individual. I think a lot of the time in the black community (and maybe other communities too) once a parent ‘brings’ a child into this world they automatically assume that child to be a duplicate of themselves. the fact that the child is unique and has his/her own character traits is not regarded many times when it comes to parent/child relationships. i do feel like i am getting to know my son in a different way all of the time because our children are constantly changing and evolving and they are not replicas of their parents.

  • Janay

    Chinese people beat their kids @@@@@zzzzes. African American people beat their kids @@@@@zzes. Latinos beat their kids culooooos. West Indies beat their kids @zzzes. If the problems were that parents are too strict on their kids tell me why are kids today so much worse off than they were when that @zz was beat? Will Smith better pray his kids dont end up in any scandal because he will be eating his words.

    • bkabbagej

      Well I don’t know about the children of today being beat or even disciplined, the law doesn’t allow it and they lack respect for authority, themselves, rules/laws and other peoples space. None of this is being taught at home and this is why the poor children’s situations are worst.You don’t own your children and you have no right to ask them to clean their room or anything else for that matter.

      • Catrice Allen

        You not only have every right, you have a responsibility to train your kids to be responsible adults. My parents always told us that they were not raising us to live with them forever, but, to live and work with other people. That included treating us to respect other people and cleanliness. Have you ever lived with someone that never had to clean their room? Well, I have and it was a nightmare. They acted as if I were their maid, they left dishes in the sink, a trail of clothes, “borrowed” clothes and whatever they desired without asking. They had no RESPECT for the people they lived with.

    • chaka1

      I agree. I spank my kids and I am tough on them only because I know what lies ahead in the real world. I want them to be prepared and disciplined.

      • Bre

        It’s too bad that beating is not discipline. It’s punishment. There’s a freakin line between the two. It doesn’t work. It just makes kids into non thinking, brainwashed and conditioned robots. Sorry to break it to you

    • Bre

      Yeah. . . All idiot parents treat children as non human being slaves. Adults are allowed to BEAT someone else. If adults got BEAT, then that would be assault. Oh noooo- but not for children. Children aren’t full humans yet and should be bossed around and beaten by people 3 times their f$ckin size

  • Gigi

    Yes, there are mentalities that have carried over from slavery, but this is not one of them. Will and Jada have not finished raising their two children yet. Let’s take all of this parenting advice with a grain of salt until we see the results. Until they hit adulthood, I need their parents to stop talking because I am seriously doubting their mental states. Scientology messes up people’s minds.

  • Say What?

    Many will be offended, but he has a point. There are quite a few things that did carry over from the days of slavery and I’ve seen many parent’s that treat their kids like one. I haven’t seen his kids involved in any scandals so they must be doing something right.

    • Bkabbagej

      His kids aren’t old enough to be involved in any scandals, 12 and 14, they can’t drive, drink or get into any clubs so the jury is still out regarding scandals. Now regarding owning your children, some may think I’m a little old fashion but your children DO belong to you (GOD said so,remember HIM) and if you don’t train them (that’s right TRAIN). And once they become adults (usually 18-25), then you release them into the world well prepared to handle almost everything that may come they’re way. Celebrities kill me giving advice totally different from how they were raised but it’s because of the way they were owned/raised they are as successful as they are. Let’s ask Will’s parents about how he was raised and if they believe what he’s saying to be fact.

      • Say What?

        Firstly god doesn’t have anything to do with this. Secondly these are celebrity children so the chance to be involved in a scandal is easy. Have you ever heard of Drew Barrymore or Brooke Shields? Thirdly it’s not as if these kids aren’t being exposed to Hollywood they’re already working in the industry. Also Will said that he was raised in a family business and his techniques are similar to his parents minus the ownership part. So unless you have some proof that he’s lying, why would you suspect that he is? Not everyone is raised the same. Finally not all celebrities are the same so for you to say it’s because how you were raised is why you’re successful isn’t a factor. What about those that came from abusive households? Are they successful because they were beaten as children?

        • bkabbagej

          Well for me GOD has everything to do with it and FOR me that’s a major part of what ails us. Secondly I NEVER said anything about the man lying, what I did say, is let’s ask his parent if what he’s saying to be a fact for them? Also I I never said every thing is for everyone, my statements were general not specific to anyone. Please make sure you carefully read and understand what I’m saying before you attack. Lastly almost every successful artist of color (Oprah, specifically talks all the time about how hard and demanding her father was on her and I wonder if he wasn’t as hard on her as he was would she be the person she is),talks about being raised/owned and loved.

          • Say What?

            Let’s look over the facts. One you responded to me. Two you brought up god in a discussion that has nothing to do with it in an attempt to justify a point. Three you said that they should talk to Will’s parents and ask them if what he’s saying is fact. What’s the point of needing his parents clarification or co-signment unless it’s because you don’t believe his word? Finally you went in saying that celebrities shouldn’t give different advice other than how they were raised as if EVERY celebrity was raised in a terrific way. While you have people like Oprah you have plenty like Lindsay Lohan. The whole point of the article is that he and his wife chose to raise their kids as they seem fit and if there were certain things that they didn’t like about how they were raised as a child chose not to incorporate it into how they raise their own.

        • Flinttown

          You may not believe in him, but God has every right to be in it because he created us all. The word is God and you think God almighty is going to allow man to mess that up because they put it in another language. Children are people, but they are not adults. They are not born to understand, but out teaching and punishing them they will learn right from wrong. Yes, even a child being taught everything right will do wrong, but the difference is as a parent I still have to do my job and those children tend to learn from their wrong a lil bit more. Though Will Smith was raised as he says, but he also was raised in the Church and Jada was raised by her grandmother who also was in the Church. The Christian Bible is the only book that give you the instructions to live and to raise God’s gifts to a husband and wife.

        • Flinttown

          Another thing, because the world has created their own norm doesn’t mean that it is the norm because those actions aren’t normal.

      • Catrice Allen


      • Tyquinn

        It’s so annoying when people quote the bible in every situation. Do you even know how many times the bible was translated before it got to english. Do you think “train” meant the same thing in the original tongue as it does in todays english (one of the youngest languages on the planet). Shoot, do you even know how the bible was created (at the council of nicea) ? Anyway, I do believe that african americans should evolve the way they look at bringing up children. I see things very similar to the way will does and i will probably use that method when I have some kids.

        • Bre

          Thank u. U r sooooo right!!!!!!! People quote the bible in EVERYTHING!!!!!!!!!!! They think that just because the bible says “train”, it’s the same definition as it is today.

    • chaka1

      I disagree. I don’t think black parents viewed their children as slaves, I think they were being protective and preparing their kids for the real world. My parents taught us about how to survive in a world that was against you.

      • Say What?

        Clearly not ALL parents did or do treat their children like slaves or property and there is more than one way to raise a child. If he says that he and his wife choose to raise their children as adults to give them the mindset to function as adults then they’re allowed to. I know racism is a touchy subject for the community, but people act as if they either weren’t or don’t know anyone who was ever told “Don’t act like that in front of white people.” or something to that degree. That in itself is something carried over from slavery and there are plenty of parents that treat their kids like slaves. If you’re parents didn’t do it than be thankful, but don’t act like it doesn’t happen.

      • Bjork

        well this explains the attitude that quickly comes to surface, you have been conditioned to believe it’s you against the world. It really isn’t…. only in your mind. If you can let go of that, you will see a whole new world open up before you.

        • Catrice Allen

          If you believe that the world is open to black folk and they have the same opportunities as whites, you are living in a dream world. I went to a predominantly white junior high school, high school and college and I am always the only black person in my office and I can tell you that the world is against black folks. When you interview for a job, they are not looking for a reason to hire you; they are looking for a reason NOT to hire you. You have to prepare your children for the reality of the world. I am gainfully employed and I have a college degree so, I am not looking for an excuse for my FAILURE. I am speaking truth. There are a special set of rules for us and anyone that denies that is living in a fantasy world.

      • True and right on point!

    • realadulttalk

      Really? Cause all the changes young Willow goes through are in my eyes a cry for help. She desires structure that they are not providing, hence all the attention-seeking behavior. .

      • Say What?

        Why is everyone trying to act as if everyday run of the mill children don’t go through things? Are some of the things that she goes through going to be different than non famous children? Yes, but it’s not as if non famous kids don’t act out. People through a fit when she cut her hair as if it’s something that isn’t acceptable of a child to be able to do. She’s still a child and a girl at that so yes she’s going to have insecurities, etc people act like if she wasn’t famous than she’d be immune to those feelings.

        • realadulttalk

          Perhaps b/c I have a child her age and therefore am constantly around children of that age…and they allow her at 12 to make decisions she is not mature enough or ready to make. When children have no structure, they act out…children need and desire to have rules in place.

          • Jay Lane


          • Say What?

            Adults tend to forget that children are people like us adults. They’re more than just what we tell them to be. Yes there are children that crave structure and there are children that rebel against it. There is no one way to raise a child. You can have two children and raise them the same, but does that mean that they’ll grow up to be the same type of person? No it doesn’t.

            • realadulttalk

              The structure of your family should be the same for all children…it is the way the child is nurtured that should differ. If you have different structures, then yes one child is bound to rebel as someone is going to appear to be favored over another. You raise all children with the same morals and values…and then as I said you nurture them differently.

              • Say What?

                Whether you’d like to use the word nurture or raise there is no one way and every way will have some sort of flaw.

                • realadulttalk

                  If you read what I said…I don’t view them as the same things. That’s why all children are raised the same…but not nurtured the same.

                  • Say What?

                    I did read what you said I don’t view it as you do, which is why I said “whether” because either way there is room for error and there’s no one way to do either.

              • Catrice Allen

                Children need to be raised as individuals and that means that rules are applied according to the child. My daughter, who is responsible, has a smart phone. My son, who can’t keep up with his jacket, cannot have a smart phone. I have explained to my children that certain things are earned and I love both my children the same but, I am raising them according to who they are.

                • realadulttalk

                  You actually aren’t disagreeing with me. A smart phone is not a moral nor a value. You are nurturing them differently b/c they have different responsibility levels. But the basic cores of life…education, hard work, how they treat others…you are most likely teaching them the identical things.

          • sweettea

            How mature do you need to be to get a hair cut? People act like they let the girl get her own apartment or something

      • Catrice Allen

        All children desire structure and boundaries.

        • realadulttalk

          Again, you are agreeing with what I said.

    • rls321321

      They are children, STFU and tell them to clean their room.
      Good Grief, if you wan to treat your kids like adults when they are 12
      you will be very surprised the trouble they are in when their 18.

      • Say What?

        Why should Will and Jada have to raise their children by your guidelines?

      • Bre

        Oh really?