When images of 11-year-old Willow Smith’s pierced tongue hit the web, some folks went nuts. We’ve watched as the eccentric tween dyed her hair every color of the rainbow, and then shaved it off, but many folks thought piercing her tongue was going just a little too far.

Some felt the piercing had sexual undertones and wasn’t suitable for such a young child, while others thought Smith had just a little too much freedom. (She has since said the piercing was a fake.) While I understand the reaction — anything that bucks “the norm” usually causes folks to have a fit — I thought Smith’s piercing was no big deal.

First of all, tongue rings aren’t even in anymore, so this felt less like a good girl gone bad move and more like an I’m-trying-to-be-oh-so-hip-but-I-failed-miserably-because-nobody-pierces-their-tongue-anymore move. As a teacher, I saw kids as young as Smith with all manner of facial piercings, so a tongue? No big deal.

Second, it’s clear that Will and Jada aren’t your average parents, so I don’t understand why people keep expecting them to raise their kids in the same average ways. It’s not happening. They clearly allow their children to express themselves creatively, and if that means whipping their hair or trading karate chops with Jackie Chan, they seem OK with it. Who am I to say they are wrong?

So far, Will and Jada have proved themselves to be stable, responsible adults and parents who are very involved in their children’s lives. So while their methods may not mirror my own, it doesn’t make them wrong, it just makes them different.

Which brings us to the overreactions. Many have wondered aloud about when Smith will turn into a coke-snorting TMZ spectacle. Because of her penchant for being quirky, they’ve pretty much condemned her to a life of rehab, recovery, and a string of no-count boyfriends.

But aside from having control over her wardrobe and her hair, what “bad” things have we heard about her? Is there a public tantrum I missed? Did somebody catch her taking a swill out of Will’s private stock? Was she partying with the Kardashians?

Methinks not.

All of the “OMG! This child is doomed!” reactions that spring up whenever Smith makes yet another change seem a bit misplaced. Instead of holding her up as an example of a child who is comfortable enough in her own skin (despite what mean ol’ blog commenters say), we look at her as a threat and wonder what “message” she is sending young kids. I’d wager our young girls are learning far worse things from others, sometimes those in their household, than by watching Smith channel her inner Punky Brewster.

Instead of tearing down a child and wondering how her parents could let her act like that (you know, because being totally awesome at 11 is so wrong), folks should be focusing on how they can inspire the same sort of self-confidence, intelligence, and creativity in their own children. Perhaps then we’d have to worry less about our kids dodging bullets and more about them ruining our good towels with their hair dye.

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