Taraji P. Henson: ‘The Family Unit Is Better Than One Parent’

06/14/2010 at 02:00 PM ET
Juan Rico/Fame

Life as a single mom has not been without challenges, and it’s something Taraji P. Henson stresses to her 16-year-old son Marcel.

Although “he’s always had male camaraderie” in his life, Marcel “needs a woman beside him [when he has kids],” the Karate Kid star tells Babble. “The family unit is better than one parent.”

With that said, while Henson, 39, is realistic about the lives of teenagers, “Twitter and sex stuff” remain off limits to Marcel.

“You have to pay attention to what they’re doing/reading/watching because this world is a very different world than when I grew up,” she notes. “They have all this information at their fingertips, and you have to pay attention — with eyes wide open.”

Henson is quick to acknowledge, however, that her son is of an age where a simple “no” will no longer do. “I don’t just say, ‘Do what I said’; I give him a reason for it,” she explains.

“I told him, as far as sex, I understand your hormones are raging, but you can barely keep up with your extracurricular work and school work,” Henson continues. “There’s a time and place and reason for certain things, and while I’m not trying to take anything from him, with sex comes responsibility, and you have to be mature enough to handle it.”

As Marcel prepares to enter the dating pool, Henson has been “teaching him how to pick really good women” — but he need not look far for examples.

“He’s around really incredible women: his family, friends, me,” she says. “We take it in stride and don’t let [the fact that I’m famous] get ahead of us. We’re human just like everybody else, and I’m not better than anybody because of what I do.”

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Showing 38 comments

Kira on

I like her. I also like her views on raising a teenager in this day and age. Great Article! She seems like a “real” parent.

Shi on

I really like Taraji as well. She’s a great actress and I enjoy her films. It’s great to see how far she’s come in her career. Yet she still seems to stay grounded and “regular”.

I don’t remember ever seeing a picture of their son. I did know that she had one but I didn’t know that he was that old. Hope to see what he looks like someday.

Z on

While I admire her pushing her son to have a two-parent family for his future children, the tone of the article makes me a bit concerned that she might be pushing too hard. After all, there are situations where it is better for the children for the parents to split, and I hope Marcel doesn’t feel the need to stay in a destructive relationship for his chicken’s sake just because his mother ingrained it in him so strongly.

Babymam on

yeah, better take care of those “chickens.”

Mina on

Geez talk about invading your sons private personal life! She has to know what he is reading, doing and watching at 16?! Hes going to find out about things sooner or later. Her son is going to rebel and act out if she is too overbearing. How about teaching values and morals and then trusting them to do the right thing (and hoping). Really, whats next…a leash?

Kat_momof3 on

I totally get what she’s saying and agree with it. I am sure she doesn’t mean she has to know exactly what he’s reading or watching every minute… just that there are limits set in regards to what he’s allowed to view and his online privileges are restricted so he’s not reading/viewing anything he shouldn’t be. Honestly, I think it’s even a bit more of a concern for her than it would be for a non-famous parent just because he’d be able to see tabloids and stuff on her…

I totally agree and you best believe if my kids have accounts on any community sites at that age (still haven’t decided my comfort zone, but I have time for that), it will be with settings I pick and they will only use them while I’m in the room to be sure they are being safe and not getting in trouble. I also love how realistic she was when talking to him about sex… be honest… and point out to them what can happen and ask… are you ready for that risk… if the answer is no… they’re not ready for sex.

Michelle on

Z: I think she’s talking more about how too many young adults (and older adults, for that matter) are having promiscuous sex and bringing children into the world with no intention of having a family unit. I’m sure she would agree that two happy parents who are split but work together to care for their child are two miserable parents staying together just to be together.

Z on

LMAO my spell check changed “children” to “chickens” for some reason. That’s hysterical that I missed that.

Anyway, Michelle-I hope you’re right. I’m just saying, the tone of the article came off a bit more like she was saying that she would only be okay with him having a “family unit” for his “chickens” (hehe).

alli on

In my opinion, monitoring what your child watches on TV, reads, and views on the internet at age 16 is absurd. I see that as parenting that is more appropriate for middle-school age children and younger.

In reference to the article, I don’t think she was saying she watches his every move. I think she just meant that she is very much aware of the adult content he is being exposed to and knows that it is her job to address it and promote discussion.

JM on

it’s interesting there seem to sometimes be more restrictions set on american teenagers because i read these things a lot from american celebs about how scared they seem to be that their teenagers might know about sex or read or watch something to with sex. now, my kids are far off being teenagers but i plan to take the approach my parents took. they never sat me down and said that anything was explicitly forbidden.

they taught me morals and how to be a good human being, treat others as you would want to be treated, and they lead by example. because nothing was deemed evil or scary or wrong, i always felt i could ask questions about anything i didn’t understand and talk about anything. consequently my parents just trusted my judgment. they didn’t have to monitor what i did or was exposed to at all. and guess what? i didn’t get into trouble and i can’t think of a single significant thing i did as a teenager that i regret.

i just think parents should stop seeing their kids as incompetent people who need to have things forbidden in order to know that they are wrong. and instead be open with them and talk to them, and above all let them know that everyone makes mistakes and that they can always talk about these mistakes. and trust in your own parenting a bit. i really think, if you’ve done your job right, then your teenager will already know right from wrong. my brother and i both did.

Mom2boys on

I am all for monitoring what teens do…believe me, they will do what they will do regardless, but at least they know we will not make it easy for them!

Also, knowing we are “lurking” may be the thing that gives them pause before making a bad decision. Think about it, parents give guidance to our children their whole lives. The trouble a 16 year old can get into for bad choices can be more detrimental than when they are 8 in my opinion.

Mina on

She should be thankful her son even voluntarily IS reading, no matter what it is…most boys his age prefer video games.

I was raised with a strict mother who had to know everything, and had a fit when it was something SHE viewed as wrong..and trust me, it has LASTING affects. I dont talk to my mom…at all! I was stressed and nervous as a teen knowing the only thing I owned that was private/personal was my thoughts. I really hope she reconsiders butting into his life so much! Its showing him she doesnt trust him, and shes suspicious and hes going to resent that in the future. And how about letting him make some mistakes…it builds character. If she raised him with morals and values, she shouldnt have to worry.

ILuvPerfectParents on

Awwh I love her as an actress & I get what she is saying. I grew up with a strict (in the sense of knowing where I was, who I was with, what I was doing etc…) mother & I believe we have a beautiful relationship because of it, I could have turned down the wrong path & I didn’t because of her!!!

ILuvPerfectParents on

Oh and privacy is a privilege in my house. My husband and I pay the bills in my home. I wish my teenagers would say something to me about them needing some privacy, I’d politely tell them “if it’s privacy you want, get your own place, pay your own bills & you will have all the privacy you need”.

If the parent(s) of a list full of teenage killers had paid closer attention to what their teens were writing, browsing on the net & what was in their rooms, a lot of lives could have been spared!!!

Kelli on

My son is only 4 but I know that when he becomes a teen I will know what is going on too. Not saying that he won’t have some type of privacy but there will be boundaries set that he will have to follow (if he plans to stay in my house). There is nothing wrong with children having boundaries. That’s what is wrong with a lot of children today, too much freedom. Go girl!

Terri on

She should be paying attention to do what he’s doing, he’s 16 for goodness sakes! These people that think a parent shouldn’t be interested in what their 16 year old is doing is what’s wrong with society. She didn’t say she had him on lockdown, she said she pays attention. Is there something wrong with paying attention to your kids now? I say thank goodness some parents are still paying attention.

My mom trusted me enough to allow me to leave home at 16, but she still made sure to be involved in what I was doing and who I was spending my time with. No, she couldn’t be there to monitor, but she paid attention. She asked questions, she had concerns, she gave me advice. I’m grateful that she did.

JM on

iluvperfectparents, your post is quite a poor example in logical reasoning. quite a blanket statement don’t you think, to link teenage killers with parents who allow their kids privacy.
wow, i’d hate to be your kid. my parents completely respected my privacy. and you know what? consequently i felt i never had anything to hide from them. they treated me like a competent human being rather assuming i was a complete moron. do you see the difference? i prefer to assume the positive in my children, and if they do something negative, then try and tackle the problem. not just assume that if i gave them privacy they would turn into serial killers. i guess i just have a little more faith in my own parenting. as my parents did in theirs. i had all the privacy i needed, as did my brother and we have never even come close to any brushes with the law. we don’t smoke, or do drugs. we drink responsibly and have a very close and open relationship with my parents. i feel i could tell them anything and that’s because they trusted me from the start.

ILuvPerfectParents on

As my post said, “my” children, I could care less about what others think of “my” parenting & I thank GOD that you are not my child, so my dear that feeling is mutual.

I believe your judgment and misunderstanding MY opinion is quite blanketed. I did not say privacy=teenage killers. I still stand by “MY” post. I am an adult, that has a life so I refuse to debate/argue with someone about MY opinions, skip over my posts if you don’t like what I post!!!! Have a great life!

ILuvPerfectParents on

i guess i just have a little more faith in my own parenting. as my parents did in theirs. i had all the privacy i needed, as did my brother and we have never even come close to any brushes with the law. we don’t smoke, or do drugs. we drink responsibly and have a very close and open relationship with my parents. i feel i could tell them anything and that’s because they trusted me from the start.
Oh and we do have that in common, I have more than enough faith in the way I am parenting my children, as well as what my mother taught myself as well as my siblings. NONE of my siblings or I did drugs, smoke, underage drink etc… I have a freshman & a sophomore in college & one that has already been accepted into college when she graduates next year & they are wonderful children!!! Like I said, have a great life!!

Mina on

It also sounds like by monitoring him, she is aiming to have a perfect child. No such thing. This kid is going to make mistakes and make a couple bad decisions no matter what…and you know what, thats ok. If she is setting him up for perfection, then the poor boy is going to be in for a rude awakening once he is on his own in the real world.

And why does she care what he is READING. Since when have words on a paper ever hurt anyone! Even if its sexual stuff he reading about, that is better than having sex! AND he is a 16 year old boy…does she think hes inhuman, of course he is going to be horny. Overbearing parents are truly a teens worst nightmare. Take it from someone who lived it.

Mina on

Now I am trolling for giving advice? You have to start on someone for not agreeing with you or this woman? And you call ME the troll lol. Just because I am not Suzy Perfect who agrees with the fact that this woman is smothering her son, doesnt mean I am a troll or trolling. Go to the next blog and smile and say wonderful things if that makes your heart glow.

Anna on

I have to agree with JM. If you just raise your children right they will know right from wrong.

Everyone deserves privacy, no matter their age. Just because they are not paying the bills they have no right to privacy? That’s just wrong.

CelebBabyLover on

Lee- Stop it! Just stop it! You are not the only one on here who is allowed to have an opinion. I may not agree with everything Mina has to say, but I certainly don’t think she is a troll! Believe me, I’ve seen people who are trolls, and Mina is far from being one!

Also, I’m sorry, Lee, but we’re all humans here…..and humans aren’t perfect!

ILuvPerfectParents on

I can see your point but I do not believe that she is aiming to make her son perfect, if that were the true then I don’t believe she would have added that “they were human”. Again EVERY household is different what I may view right/and works in my home may be what someone else views as wrong/not work in someone else’s home & vice versa.

There is a difference between monitoring your children (knowing what they are doing) but not being totally overbearing. I definitely monitor my children but I don’t go through text messages/emails/purses/wallets etc….

I do however go in their rooms WHENEVER I want to! I still stand by my statement!!!

Mina on

Then if you go into your childrens rooms whenever you want, I think they have a right to go into yours whenever they want. Paying bills doesnt mean squat…every human being in entitled to privacy! Why did you even have kids if you cant even respect them?

iluvperfectparents on

LOL people have kids to respect them? & they do!

iluvperfectparents on

Oops I meant that for Mina! I’m still laughing! I don’t know one parent who had kids to respect them or vice versa. Respect for ME is not a given, it’s earned! Thanks again for the laugh I needed that. Anywho I raise my kids how I see fit & everyone else SHOULD do the same, have a great life!

Mina on

Glad I made you laugh and I feel sorry your kids that you dont respect them. I’ve never heard of such an awful thing…not respecting your own child. Then why did you have kids? To make yourself feel like a king being respected by them? But yet you dont have to respect them till its earned?They dont have to earn anything..they are your children! Do they have to earn you love too? Ever heard of being there for your child no matter what?

ILuvPerfectParents on

Earning respect is just not with my children, it’s with people in general. I never mentioned they had to respect me, (even though they do) so having them was definitely not so I could feel like a queen. My kids have a very open relationship with me & I love it, it may be too close for some but that’s fine.

I can tell you are young and don’t have children yet but I see nothing wrong with how you want to raise your children even though it’s different from mine. I love your name by the way. I’ve never personally met anyone named Mina but I read it in a book a few years back, it’s a very beautiful name. Have a nice life sweetie!!

Sage on

@Mina-obviously you don’t have children. There is nothing wrong with moitioring your child whom is highschool age because as parents their actions can affect us majorly because they are under our care, until they are 18 years. Also some parents don’t want their kids reading sexual/graphic materials because it may not go with what we consider appropriate for their age.

To me in my household privacy with everything is a priviledge not a right. Your actions determine that.

I agree with Taraji on this one, parents do have to monitor what their kids our doing and have to have an open dialog when it comes to sex.

Just because parents raise their child to know the difference between right and wrong doesn’t mean their always going to make the wisest decisions. So I feel that it’s good to have a balance and lets kids test the water but as a parent you have to be on watch incase they start to drown.

ILuvPerfectParents on

@Sage your comment was eloquently written to perfection!! It’s exactly what I was trying to say but obviously didn’t!! LOL! Again every way is different, whatever works for some households may not work for others!

Mina on

Privacy is NOT a priveledge…it is every persons, every human beings God givin RIGHT. I do have a child btw. Put yourself in your childs shoes. Better yet, let your child invade YOUR privacy and see how YOU feel. You may be parents but that doesnt mean your child is your property..they are human beings with just as much right to privacy as anyone else, reguarless of age or who pays bills.

Also why is it so wrong for a 16 year old to read about sex? Its better than having it! If you restrict them, it only makes them want it more and act out/keep secrets etc…and come on, they are going to see it/read it elsewhere anyway so no matter how hard you try its going to happen. Invading and controlling is where rebelling comes in.

This kid is 16, not 8. While he still needs guidance and advice, he doesnt need his mom demanding to know everything he is up to. Thats sick. He is on the verge of manhood and should be treated as such…not “he has to do this because I say so, because he is still under my roof, because I am the boss and pay the bills”…that kind of attitude is tyranny, not parental.

I suppose we do raise our children differently. I’m just a firm believer in everyone (no matter the age) having rights. Have a nice life you guys! =)

CelebBabyLover on

Going off-topic a bit….Who is Taraji’s son’s father?

Lyoness on

@ Sage and PerfectParents – Couldn’t have said it better myself. My mother had the same attitude with me and by siblings and we’re extremely open and close. It was never a Mommy Dearest situation. LOL! You are your child’s PARENT first, not their friend. That comes later. That’s where many of these parents get into trouble. They want to appease their children by not setting boundaries. Or they want to party with their kids. (The Lohans) Children like structure and boundaries. It makes them feel protected and safe. This isn’t to say that creativity isn’t important. That’s good too.

I highly doubt Taraji is a tyrant but she obviously values self respect and is a firm believer in discipline. Think about it. She didn’t become famous really until the last 10-12 years. She’s 39 so she was never a young starlet. She brought her son with her alone from DC to LA after she finished college. So to maintain that level of parenting while also pursuing an acting career takes faith and a ton of discipline. All this just to say that I think Taraji really sees parenting as a serious undertaking. Think about it, for many people, their kids are the one tangible thing they leave behind when they’re gone. I think this is why she’s one of my favorite actors because she’s classy and has a personal sense of discipline that extends past her professional life and into her personal life too.

@CelebBabyLover – Her son’s father from what I understand was a boyfriend who passed away some years ago.

Lyoness on

@ Sage and PerfectParents – I completely agree. You are your child’s PARENT first, not friend. That’s where many parents get into trouble. (Lohans) Kids like boundaries. I think she has the added pressure of being a single parent. Plus she’s famous so people will scrutinize her as a parent. All this just to say that I think Taraji really sees parenting as a serious undertaking. It’s not a game. Think about it, for many people, their kids are the one tangible thing they leave behind when they’re gone.

Another thing is Taraji’s 39 and she’s only been famous for the last 10-12 years. She wasn’t a young starlet. She moved to LA with her son by herself. To maintain this level of parenting and pursue acting takes self respect and discipline. Maybe this is why Taraji’s one of my favorite actors because she seems to have these values professionally and personally.

@CelebBabyLover – Her son’s father was a boyfriend who passed away a few years ago.

Mina on

Nobody said anything about partying with your kids! Of course you dont party with your kids. But kids no matter what age deserve privacy and respect, just as you as parents want privacy and respect…it goes both ways. Sure, younger kids need more discipline, but this is a 16 year old young man!

Ok, NOW I am done. =)

Skyy on

I totally agree with Taraji…you DO need to monitor what your teens are doing!! How many tragic stories do we hear DAILY of teens who do destructive things and then a parent(s) is on tv saying “I never knew they were like that…” yes probably because you let them do whatever they want all in the name of “privacy”!!! These are the same parents you see in public whose kids are being disrespectful not only to them but other people…yet there’s nothing wrong with that because “I just let them express themselves and give them their space and privacy”!! As a teacher I see it also…a BIG difference between kids who you know their parents care and monitor what they do compared to the kids whose parents let them do whatever they want!!! Taraji…keep doing your thing!! Your son will grow up to be respectful, kind, and most of all the type of man who will make a difference in this world all because you CARED enough to monitor the things he gets involved with! Of course we’ll be seeing and reading about in the news and in the paper of the the kids of the parents on this page who let them do otherwise!!!

preta4 on

Praying for Taraji and her son who’s now smoking at 19. Cancer is on the rise with teens and young adults, and I pray to God this young man gives it up and soon, because I’ve seen too many folks die from diseases associated with smoking (cigarettes and marijuana too). Blowing smoke and smoking may seem glamorous but the end result is devastating. Hope he wakes up and soon.