Our 12-year-old son flies into rages at the slightest thing, being disrespectful and slamming doors. When he is angry, we can’t reason with him and it’s making our family life very challenging. Can you help?

You need to set clear boundaries for the type of behaviour you expect to see and stick to them. If no doesn’t mean no in your household, then kids will see that there is a weakness on your part and exploit it. First, decide on what these rules are and explain this to your son. Not at a time when conflict is high, but when he’s had a good day and you can initiate the conversation with some element of praise. Be clear about what the consequences are for breaking the rules so he is fully aware of what will happen. If he responds by kicking up a fuss, reiterate, but don’t engage. One of the key roles you have as a parent is to teach your child that there are other ways to respond – a kind of problem solving if you like. This is where the talking comes in. Get him to come up with behaviour strategies. Ask him what it feels like when he starts to feel angry, so that he can recognise the signs, then see if he can suggest an alternative behaviour such as taking a time out from the situation. If he can’t suggest anything guide him with suggestions.

My middle son can be boisterous and badly behaved. I am at a loss to understand why he is so different than my other children. Please help!

There are three approaches that might bring about the long-term change: First, have clear boundaries that are the same for all of your children. It is important that your middle son sees that everyone is equal and gets treated the same. Second, it might be wise to spend some quality time with your middle son. Talk to him about how he feels and let him know that you ‘see’ him and value him as much as his brother and sister. Finally, try and identify what he is good at and hone in on this. Catch him being good and tell him when he is, but also explore his talents. This positive reinforcement may take a great deal of time and effort, but if you are committed to the process and consistent in applying it, then you will see the improvements you desire.