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Wit & Wisdom: What a Scream

[STYLE {Q. My toddler daughter is, well, a screamer. It's hard to explain the exact sound, but it's like a cross between an air-raid siren and a banshee. We've all but stopped going to restaurants, and once when she screamed in line at the grocery store, a startled man rammed his shopping cart into a display of baked goods and mangled all the donuts. What should I do?} {SECTION}]

[STYLE {A.} {SECTION}] She's screaming because it gets her what she wants, and you're reinforcing her behavior every time you respond. I'd scream too if I thought it would stop my son from spilling a full 24-oz. blue Icee down my leg at the 7-11.

Getting a strong-willed 1-year-old to do what you want requires patience, cunning, and nerves of steel. I'd suggest you sharpen your acting skills and pretend as though you don't even notice her hollering (once you're sure nothing's really wrong with her). Once she tones down at home, you can venture back out in public. Meanwhile, invest in a good pair of earplugs, because even after she improves, you'll need them for her first year of clarinet lessons.

  Janet Konttinen is a syndicated humor columnist with one son and triplet daughters.

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