Q: A few of us moms were talking about ways we punish our kids, how angry they make us. We were venting about their behavior overall. We thought it would be good to send you a question, or a request, to give us some advice on the best ways to deal with our kids. Especially when they don’t do what we tell them to do, making us really angry and we don’t have any answers how to deal with them. I guess some of us are more easygoing, or “permissive,” and some of us are really strict. I think we agree we shame our kids a lot. Any parent advice would be great.

A: This is indeed a universal question, with the parenting “party line” about rewards and punishment. Be mindful of your expectations, whether they are developmentally and temperamentally realistic for each child. What works for one child won’t necessarily work for another, as there isn’t a “one size fits all” approach. Avoid permissive parenting and being “really strict,” which I suspect is punitive. Instead, connection is between these two extremes, the place where we meet our child in balance, listening to what’s at the emotional root of the behavior. If you only address what’s on the surface (the behavior), such as “when they don’t do what we tell them to do,” you’re not getting to the emotional source of the problem. Punishing or ignoring the behavior won’t get the results you want, as children will never behave better if you make them feel miserable.

If you’re always battling with your children, try stepping back to look at your part of the dynamic. When you’re angry, take responsibility for those feelings, ensuring you’re balancing your needs with your child’s. Let him know you need to work out a better way of doing whatever it is that has triggered that anger, paying attention to the gravity of those feelings. Does it seem out of proportion to the infraction? Does it feel like it’s coming from a prehistoric place? If so, it’s your signal there is some work to do around your family of origin. As John Bradshaw said: “Pass it back or pass it forward.” The unhealed childhood wounds will be projected onto the children, the next generation.

Try reflecting on the multigenerational patterns of your respective families. For example, if you were shamed as a child, chances are pretty good you may be doing the same to your own children. Sometimes, parents try to offset that by going to the other extreme, constantly praising their child, assuming that the “good job” approach for everything she does right will score plenty of good behavior points. Shaming is traumatic, leaving emotional scars. Children watch closely what surrounds them, what their parents are modeling, which is the most influential “teaching.”

Try following conflict resolution steps to ease the pain. First, identify the problem. In other words, is the problem simply that your child is being “impossible” and refusing to come inside when called for dinner, or is the problem more complicated, indicating underlying emotions needing attention? Secondly, if needed, address the emotional root, without judging or criticizing, and listen — you don’t have to agree, simply listen. Next, brainstorm options, which is a great collaborative tool. Once you’ve listed all the possibilities without judging any of your child’s suggestions, select the solution that meets everyone’s needs. Remember, rather than making your child the problem, the more he is part of the solution, the more invested he is in making it work. The final step in this process is firming up your agreement, being specific, positive, and clear. Connection is key.

Q: I know you’ve written about how to co-parent after divorce many times, but I need some reinforcement. My ex is very difficult and not thinking about what’s best for our kids. Could you please give some quick tips that I can show him so maybe he starts realizing how much he’s harming them by being so hostile and uncooperative.

A: When parents divorce, it’s only their marriage that’s ending, NOT their responsibility to their children. A strong, positive co-parenting relationship is essential for children to thrive, to grow up with healthy self-esteem, to feel secure and loved. These are some “quick tips,” which all parents need to follow:

• Communicate with each other with mutual respect about your children.

• Do everything in your power to minimize conflict between yourselves.

• Place your children’s interests ahead of your own.

• Make all child-related decisions out of the presence of your children.

• Never use children to deliver messages to the other parent.

• Be flexible in your co-parenting plans to support your child’s extracurricular activities and needs.

• Never speak critically of the other parent to or in the presence of your children.

• Spend time alone with your children if you remarry.

• Be with your children during scheduled times and communicate with them if you cannot be there.

• Listen, listen, listen to your children.

Please send me your questions.