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My daughter recently got married. She and her high school sweetheart tied the knot in August and are working together and making their own decisions now on a daily basis. My son, at 17, is still in high school and living at home and I continue to guide him, although I let him make most of his decisions based on “the greatest good for all,” and this has been an operating basis for me in raising them all along. So far he hasn’t held me to ransom and he hasn’t used the fact that I am the voice of Bart Simpson against me for which I am very grateful, however it does bring up the question: “What is the measurement of a parent’s success when it comes to raising a child?”

I think we can all agree that if your child grows up to be happy, successful and knows how to make the right choices in life, you will have adequately fulfilled your role as a parent. Surely your child will make a few wrong decisions and choices along the rugged path of life, but if he has been taught well, he will make more positive and constructive choices than destructive and his happiness will be your measuring stick. We as parents are the guideposts, but at the same time, must allow our children to be self-determined, able to think for themselves and make their own decisions. Children do not do well if controlled like dogs. End of story. Woof.

Ask yourself these questions in terms of how well you are educating your child on common sense values:

  • “Will my child be able to avoid the temptations of drugs and alcohol and withstand the peer pressure of “fitting in” or will he fall prey to those pressures and wind up being an addict or possibly brain damaged due to experimenting with dangerous drugs?”
  • “Will he be worthy of trust, and keep his word with others or will he be deceitful and dishonest, disrupting relationships at every turn?”
  • “Will he treat others with respect, and handle them as he would like to be treated or will he carelessly hurt others feelings placing little importance or thought toward the ill effects he might create in others’ lives?”
  • “Will he be competent and create better conditions for himself and others or will he create disasters at every turn, littering his life with ineffectiveness and destruction?” and
  • “Will he be faithful to his marital partner and express love and devotion or will he betray his partner’s trust and destroy the relationship without remorse?”

I have found that no matter what trouble my child gets into, there is something that I failed to teach him/her. It always boils down to “What could I have taught my child that would have prevented this from happening in the first place?” In other words, the level of success and happiness your child attains in life will largely be determined by the responsibility you have and the knowledge you teach him today.

It will be because of your efforts to treat him with respect and love, despite numerous inevitable invitations to want to do otherwise, that he will choose not to mistreat his own children or abuse them.

It will be because of your patient & gentle insistence that he not accept mediocrityin life, but strive for professionalism and competence, that he succeeds.

It will be because of your worthy advice that he seeks to live with the truth and be worthy of respect, that he lives a life of integrity and honor.

Your influence as a parent is far greater than you probably have ever stopped to realize. I began teaching my two children common sense values when they were pre-school age. As a result of doing so, I have witnessed them grow into happy, successful young adults.

You could liken it to an investment. Take the time and effort now to make continual deposits into your child’s “bank account” of wisdom, and within time, little bits of wealth will accumulate. And by the time your child reaches the age where he/she really understands the concepts of “giving back” and “contribution”, you could even consider that these efforts are “interest” that you have accumulated!—a little bonus, not only for him/her but you and your whole family and even the community in which you live.

I guess it comes down to asking ourselves an important question: “What do I want for my child– a happy, successful life based on right choices or a morally bankrupt one based on unhappiness and failure? Our answers and actions will determine the result.

As for me, I feel I am one of the wealthiest moms on the planet, and I like to make daily “withdrawals” from my kids—hugs and kisses for doing a good job!

(Nancy Cartwright is a mother of two, the Honorary Mayor of the San Fernando Valley, voice-artist and co-founder of Happy House, a non-profit whose purpose is “Building Better Families”. You can find out more at

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