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Telephone Tantrums

Andrew Sluzas of Downer's Grove, IL, was 18 months old when he started to monkey around during his mom's telephone calls. As soon as I answered the phone, he'd run over and wrap himself around my leg like a baby chimpanzee,  she says. Even more distracting, at least to the person on the other end of the call: Andrew would also cry "Mommy!" until she hung up.

From your toddler's perspective, your phone calls compete with her beloved face time, says Kathleen Kiely Gouley, Ph.D., of the New York University Child Study Center. And she's ready to pull out her best moves -- such as climbing on the coffee table -- to get you to focus on her again. To steer clear of phone flare-ups:

? Be smart about timing. Let calls go into voicemail just before naps and other times your toddler needs your undivided attention.

? Create a special phone toy bin. Stock it with things she can play with on her own -- like blocks, board books, a toy telephone, or crayons -- and take it out only when the phone rings.

? Say cheese. Or crackers. Or banana slices. Have low-maintenance treats ready to go so that you can take a call when snacktime arrives.

? Warn her. As she nears age 2, you can try telling your toddler that you need her to play alone while you use the phone. Give her an idea how long it'll last, like, By the time you find some books to read later, I'll be done. She's not likely to sit quietly the first time you ask (or the second), but prepping her now will help her respect your phone time as she gets older.