Almost everyone likes the idea of winning the lottery. The house would be paid for and college wouldn’t be a worry. But with odds of 15 million to 1, unexpected riches are just a dream for most of us.

That’s why everyone in Lake Highlands enjoyed a vicarious thrill when Amber Mathews, daughter of Lake Highlands High School principal Ron Mathews, hit the jackpot by winning a share of the recent $50 million weekly lotto drawing.

Ironically, principal Mathews had just warned parents about the dangers of too many material things in a recent newsletter.

“As a parent, the two worst things you can give your child are money and wheels. The two most important things you can give them are roots and wings.”

But what if it’s your child giving you money?

No one was more surprised than this fiscally conservative dad to receive a call that Amber, a college sophomore, was a winner.

But he knows it won’t affect her academic drive and determination to succeed. And he knows it’s far too late to teach responsibility. Amber learned that from years of routine household chores and the daily care of family pets.

She learned good work habits for summers of flipping hamburgers and working as a lifeguard. She sat down with her parents to work out college finances. She gave up extras to attend an out-of-state university for one year and made an independent decision to return to Texas this year.

Mathews knows being a good parent is tough.

“It’s much harder to be a parent today,” he says. “It is so much more important for the parent to filter out society for their child. Parents need to develop a routine for responsibility; it gives children a sense of independence and worth. It gives them an opportunity to develop judgment and responsibility.”

For Mathews, being principal of a large high school means being part psychologist, counselor and philosopher. He has lots of straight talk for students, but his favorite tips are aimed at parents.

He has seen how tens of thousands of kids have turned out. He’s also talked with thousands of hand-wringing parents.

And one of the things he would most like to see parents do is to allow their children to fail. That doesn’t mean kids should flunk algebra. It means parents should not run to rescue children from every natural consequence and disappointment.

It means not intervening or even lying to protect children from tardy slips and detentions. Not running up to the school with overdue library books, forgotten lunches and late homework.

It means not making excuses for children.

Like so many things in life, it gets down to basics. So here are a few tips from a man who has walked a lot of teens down the road to adulthood:

  • All kids are different; handle them individually.
  • Be fair, firm and consistent in the way you treat and discipline them.
  • Allow your child to fail.
  • Set limits and enforce them. If necessary, choose an appropriate punishment, and stick with it.
  • Be a good role model. Don’t send mixed signals about smoking and drinking. Be aware of your attitude toward authority figures. Your child won’t respect teachers and rules if you don’t.
  • Help your child develop internal strength through regular participation in a religious organization of any kind.
  • Don’t push young children to be competitive. Let them be part of a team and play for fun.
  • And the hardest one of all: Don’t live through your child.

Not even if she’s worth a million. Aren’t they all?