updated 10/30/2012 AT 4:00 PM ET
•originally published 10/31/2012 AT 1:00 PM ET
When it comes to raising her kids, Jada Pinkett Smith isn’t authoritarian in her rule-making.
“I think that old school style of ‘I’m your parent and I’m greater than you’ doesn’t work,” she told PEOPLE at a Yes to Prop 35 event hosted by The Moms on Monday afternoon. “What I establish with my children is a partnership.”
Adds the actress: “I’m not necessarily dictating what is happening in their lives.”
While Jada, 41, and husband Will Smith, 44, are no strangers to the spotlight, her younger children Willow, 12, and Jaden, 14, are just learning to handle living in the public eye. So how does the mom of three prepare her youngest for criticism from complete strangers?
By “instilling in [Willow] the power for individuality,” says Smith. “We communicate with our kids in a way that our message overpowers any other message that they get out there.”
On top of that, she doesn’t shield her kids from rumors and gossip about the family.
“We can’t control what our kids learn anymore,” she says. “We have to inform them and have real conversations and [create] that foundation of them feeling assured in themselves.”
So far, she and Will, who are celebrating their 15th anniversary in December, (a feat Jada calls “a great accomplishment”) have been successful.
“I think for our children they feel like we really care and they come to us and go, ‘Mommy, I’m having this problem,’ ” says Smith. “And it’s like, ‘Okay, let’s figure this out together.’ And it empowers them.”