August 31, 2009 02:00 PM

Kevin Winter/Getty

Actress and songstress Jada Pinkett Smith, 37, wears many hats, but there is one hat which clearly suits her best. “Family is number one,” she tells the September issue of Good Housekeeping magazine. “I figure out how I can give them what they need, and in turn be given the time to do what I want.” To that end, when she was mulling over the idea of joining the cast of HawthoRNe, Jada says that it was the input of Jaden Christopher Syre, 11, and Willow Camille Reign, 8 ½, she sought above all others.

“I sat my kids down and said, ‘There’s a project that Mommy wants to do,'” she recalls, “‘It’s going to be three months, and there might be days that I’m not going to be here when you wake up or when you go to bed. But then I might have two days off, and you can have Mommy all to yourself.'” Fortunately for fans of the TNT show, Jaden and Willow encouraged their mom to take the part.

“Their response was, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s cool, Ma!’ Willow said, ‘When you come home late, will you just come in my bedroom and give me a kiss?'”

Recognizing where to draw the line between career and family is somewhat complicated, however, by the fact that both kids are up-and-coming actors in their own right. “The whole family is spending the summer in China, where Jaden’s shooting a remake of The Karate Kid,” Jada notes. “I was going to be in the film with him, but I decided that when he’s working, he needs Mommy — just Mommy, who gives the apples with the peanut butter.”

When the family of five — which includes husband Will Smith, and Will’s son Trey, 16, from a previous marriage — aren’t on location, Jada says they’re often hanging out near home. “We’ll go outside on the trampoline or the swing, take a nature walk, bake,” she reveals. “I love to bake — that’s the only thing I do. I don’t cook at all. I can’t. My mother didn’t cook; my grandmother couldn’t cook a lick!” You won’t hear the kids criticizing Jada’s cooking, however, for Jada says that her unbreakable mom rule is respect. She elaborates,

“My kids are extremely respectful. You might not have to go to bed at a certain time, but do not talk crooked to anybody! Always treat people the way you want to be treated.”

HawthoRNe airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on TNT.

Source: Good Housekeeping, September issue

— Missy

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