If your relatives sneered at your child's behavior during a recent family trip, don't feel bad. Give your parenting skills a tuneup.

What was behind an amusement park meltdown or a fit in a hotel lobby?

Knowing your child's emotional state will help you understand his behavior, says Gary M. Unruh, a child and family mental-health counselor.

Unruh is the author of "Unleashing the Power of Parental Love: 4 Steps to Raising Joyful and Self-Confident Kids" (Lighthouse Love Productions, 2010).

"Feelings are the most powerful inside part, the energy source for determining your child's outside behavior," he says.

Teaching your child self-control and consideration for others goes a long way toward a pleasant time with family and friends.

In order for your child to feel happy and accepted by friends and relatives, he needs a reinforcement of positive character traits such as responsibility, perseverance, empathy, self-discipline and honesty, Unruh says. Also try these steps:

--Support your child's individuality. If he made a tower at Lego camp, display it.

--Set firm limits to instill good character.

--Start any disciplining with support in order to avoid shame. Shame doesn't instill trust. Parents who balance support and correction avoid shame.

Douglas Riley, a psychologist and author of "Dr. Riley's Box of Tricks: 80 Uncommon Solutions for Everyday Parenting Problems" (Da Capo Lifelong Books, 2011), suggests making changes:

--Stay calm. Get rid of the idea that talking louder will improve communication with your child. Yelling gets you nowhere.

--Stop arguing. Arguing with children makes them think they are your equals. The more you argue, the more they will, too.

--Make it fun. Get back to the business of having some fun with your child.

--Keep it light. It helps to have a sense of humor about all the things your kids have done, and will continue to do, that make you nutty.

Riley's ideas are for healthy, normal kids ages 6-14, who have a sense of humor and are generally enjoyable. The tips are not for children who are depressed, anxious, bullies or on the autism spectrum.

Here's a simple change Riley suggests regarding your speaking pattern: Stop ending your sentences with OK. "Tomorrow morning, I want you to clean up your room. If you don't, I'm going to take away your video game for the whole day. OK?"

You may think you're trying to make sure he understands, Riley writes, but he will hear it as if you're seeking his permission or agreement.

Or for quarreling siblings: Instead of separating them, make them spend a block of time together by themselves, with books, papers and pens and without their toys and computers.

Can you help?

Q: My son, who is 5, talks back to me and has been doing it for about six months. He thinks he is my age and has challenged my authority when I tell him he cannot talk to me like that. -- a mother in Davidson, N.C.

Betsy Flagler, a journalist based in Davidson, N.C., is a mother and teaches preschool. If you have tips or questions, please e-mail her at p2ptips@att.net or call Parent to Parent at 704-236-9510.