09/26/2013 01:15 pm ET Updated Nov 26, 2013

How Will You Know If You've Parented Well?

Written by Jan Cloninger

When your child is 25 or 30 years old, how will you measure if you've done your job well? It's a question we often ask when working with parents. If you don't have an immediate answer, you're not alone. But it's never too late to think about it.

When my son was small, my personal goals were simple: I wanted to be successful, rich and happy. So, if I had been asked that question back then, my response would have been that I would know I had parented well if my son became successful, rich and happy.

But I hadn't consciously chosen those goals. I didn't even have a clear definition of what those words meant. I simply starting pursuing them because society told me they would give my life meaning.

As I began to attain the first two, I discovered that they didn't necessarily create the third. In fact, it was quite the opposite. My pursuit of success and money created a lot of unhappiness in my life.

It's a long story with an unexpected twist that allowed me (although it felt more like forced me) to examine the big questions in life: who I am, what's most important to me, what did I value and believe and what would bring me a sense of meaning, purpose and joy?

My son was in kindergarten when I started being intentional about asking those questions and it took me several years to find the answers I was looking for. But through that personal search, I discovered two very valuable lessons: how the process of self-discovery and acceptance works, and how to support others in the process.

It totally changed me as a person, the way I lived, the way I parented, and the hopes I had for my son as he grew into adulthood.

Find a way to write down some notes. Then, take a few minutes to think about and capture your response to my initial question.

What did you discover? Do you have an answer you like? Or, do you need to make an entry on your to-do list to give this some additional consideration?

When it comes to raising our children, this may be one of the most important questions we can ask ourselves. The clearer we are about what really matters, the more we can maintain our focus in the myriad of choices we make each day, and the more we increase our chances of being happy with the young adults we have raised.

When your child is 25 or 30 years old, how will you measure if you've done your job well?

You can contact Jan at

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with our women's conference, "The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money & Power," which took place in New York on June 6, 2013. To read all of the posts in the series and learn more about the conference, click here. Join the conversation on Twitter #ThirdMetric.