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Judge Hatchett's Parenting Advice

As a juvenile court judge on TV, Judge Glenda Hatchett is used to doling out tough love to the adolescents coming through her courtroom. Now, Judge Hatchett has put her years of expertise into a book, called "Say What You Mean And Mean What You Say!", which offers seven strategies to help children stay on the right path.

The book is full of simple strategies to help parents stay in touch with their children to make sure they don't fall into trouble, and it's full of anecdotes from Hatchett's years as a juvenile court judge - as well as from her own years of being the mother of two sons.

Though she notes the advice she offers is obvious to most parents, she says, "Sometimes the obvious is not so obvious - and if it is so obvious then why aren't we, as parents in this country, doing a better job parenting? There are so many young people that come into my courtroom that haven't had parents who've done these things, and so many parents don't apply these basic principles."

At the same time, she notes the book is not just for parents with troubled kids. It is written "for all parents regardless of economic status and ethnicity," she says.

Read an excerpt:

Expect Greatness

Allow me to repeat myself: expect greatness. Set the bar high. Encourage your children to reach beyond their wildest dreams.

There, that gets us past the easy heading, but I can't move on without overstating what may or may not be so obvious: it's not the greatness that matters, but the expectation of it, the reaching for it, the setting it out as a goal or ideal. Let's be honest, even the greats stumble from time to time, but greatness is not the point. It's the prospect of greatness, the preparation for it, the willingness to let it into our lives. Expect it and it will come; reach for it and it will instill hope and dedication and purpose and all kinds of great things; take it for granted and it will always slip away. It has to do with destiny, don't you think? If we teach our kids to move about as if greatness is within reach, then it will be so. If we teach them to hang their heads and despair about ever reaching their objectives, then they won't.

We parents must demand the utmost of our children, whether we're teaching them to tie their shoes, or read, or drive a car, or develop good study habits and a responsible moral code. And why stop at parents? Teachers, mentors, bosses, aunts and uncles ... judges. We should always expect the very best from our charges if we hope to see the very best in return. It's basic. And just to flip it around, we must also expect the very best from ourselves -- because after all, we set examples by our actions. You can't lead where you aren't willing to go.

No mother is certain about what she's doing when she first has children. In a world of uncertainty, this is one absolute. Me, I wasn't clear on a whole bunch of things, but I had some ideas, and one of the big ones was that I should give my kids something to shoot for, help them walk a path that might allow them to discover their dreams and realize them as well. In so doing, naturally, I set the bar high for myself, but I figured my children had a right to expect a kind of greatness from me if I was expecting it of them. It's only fair, don't you think?

I got this notion from my own parents, who nurtured and inspired my brothers and me to reach beyond our circumstances, but as hard as my mother and father worked to instill in me a sense of boundless opportunity and wonder, there were others working just as hard to tell me what I couldn't do, where I didn't belong, and when I shouldn't even bother trying. For every piece of positive reinforcement I took in at home, there were a dozen negatives out there in the rest of the world, and I came away thinking I'd have to level the playing field a bit when it came my turn to raise children. I didn't want them to have to deal with all these disapproving messages if they didn't have to, at least not at home, at least not on my watch.

It's funny the way a lot of my well-meaning friends and relations lined up to tell me how much trouble my boys would give me when they reached adolescence, based on how much trouble their own children had been giving them, especially boys. It's as if they needed to drag us down into whatever it was they were struggling through, either because misery loves company or because they couldn't bear the thought that they might have missed an opportunity to set things along a more positive path with their own children. "Enjoy them now," I'd keep hearing when my children were young, "because there's gonna be war in your house when they get older."

Each warning was more ominous than the last:

"Just wait till they become teenagers."

"There won't be peace in your house till they're both off to college."

"I don't envy you. Two boys. You're in for some real trouble."

I refused to claim this mind-set as my own. I flat out didn't want to hear it. Why? Well, if you go in anticipating a negative outcome, the positives won't know here to find you, so from the very beginning I turned a deaf ear when someone tried to counsel me on what almost everyone assumed would be problems in my relationships with my sons. I wouldn't listen. When there was no avoiding it, when someone needed to download her troubles and let out a little steam, I nodded politely until she was through. I'd half hear these terrible things and promptly set them aside, never once believing that any of these worst-case scenarios would have anything to do with the positive relationships I'd carve with my own adolescent and teenage sons when the time came. Those negatives weren't mine, I told myself; they have nothing to do with me or my children.

There's an old adage in the world of sports that suggests that great teams sometimes play down to the level of their lesser opponents. Conversely, there are lesser teams -- less talented, less physically gifted, less dedicated -- that play up against tougher competition. I've always believed that in cliché there is truth (sometimes, at least), and at this point I've seen enough high school football and basketball games to know that the adage applies, but I could never accept allowing my children the wiggle room to play down to expectations. What I mean by this is that I wouldn't give my kids an out, or an easy excuse ...

The foregoing is excerpted from Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say! by Glenda Hatchett and Daniel Paisner. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022

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