Ask Dr. Dad

When you write a newspaper column, some people automatically assume that you must know something. Incredible, I know, but it happens. To disprove this notion, I will now answer my reader mail.

Q: My eighteen-month-old daughter takes long naps, goes to sleep early at night and still sleeps late. What should I do?

A: Bring her to my house and we'll swap kids.

Q: My child is obese. Will calling attention to the problem make her self-conscious?

A: Maybe yes, maybe no. Maybe yes if you holler, "Hey, Blimpo, get your face out of the ice-cream pie" in front of your dinner guests. But maybe not if you take her aside and say, gently, "You know, Blimpo, you'd be a lot less hefty if you'd let us have some dessert once in a while."

Q: My three-year-old son runs from one thing to another all day long. Is he hyperactive?

A: Depends. Is the neighbor's pit bull chasing him? Or are you chasing him? If so, what have you threatened to do once you've caught him? Or perhaps you're just scary-looking. Do people often run in your presence? That may be your answer right there.

Q: My four-year-old is often listless and seems depressed. What can I do?
A: For God's sake, hide his squirt gun.

Q: Should we allow our infant son to cry himself to sleep?
A: Only after you've determined that he has a good reason to cry. If he's wailing because his port-a-crib has folded up on him, for example, that's a good reason.

Q: My seven-year-old occasionally gets up saying he doesn't feel well. I think he wants to get out of going to school. How can I tell?

A: Give him a heart-lung machine. If he uses it, let him stay home. If he plays with it, send the little faker to school.

Q: My five-year-old continues to want help in the bathroom. When should parents back off?

A: When the child has had Mexican food for lunch.

Q: Our two-year-old was such an easygoing baby. Now all he seems to say is "No!" What's happening?

A: You've given me his answer but not your question. If you're asking, "Would you like a sound thrashing," then his response demonstrates admirable intelligence. However, if your query is, "What's your name," you may have a problem.

Q: Our daughter has begun walking at the age of eight months. I've heard that early walkers have a higher intelligence than crawlers. True?

A: True. And if they wear lifts, their intelligence is even higher.

Q: I need good, affordable childcare. Where should I start looking?
A: Fantasyland.

Q: My four-year-old son is deathly afraid of his pediatrician. What can I do to help?

A: I had this problem. I simply told the doctor to take off the Freddy Krueger mask and start acting like a professional.

Q: Our four-year-old whines and whines and whines until she gets what she wants. What should we do?

A: What does she want? A car? A horse? Her own TV series? If it's some dumb little thing like that, get it for her. Believe me, it'll be worth it just to get her to pipe down for a few blessed minutes.

Q: My daughter is eight years old. Is it wrong for me to want to be her best friend?

A: No. But research has shown that eight-year-olds make lousy best friends. They can't play canasta, they borrow money with no intention of paying it back, and they always give you cheap (or handmade) birthday presents. Also, in many states, you would not be allowed to take her into dive bars, get drunk, go home with strange men and compare notes the next day. Some best friend.

Q: My four-year-old still sucks his thumb. How can I stop this?
A: Tie some Brussels sprouts to the digit. That'll stop him.

Q: My five-year-old bites his friends. What to do?
A: Tie some Brussels sprouts to his friends. That'll stop him.

Q: My six-year-old lies. What can I do about it?
A: Nip it in the bud. Your child must learn to tell the truth, no matter the consequences. The best way to pass this concept along is to tell him that he was adopted from very mean parents who ate live gerbils, and if he doesn't straighten up, he's going back.

Then tie some Brussels sprouts to his tongue. That'll stop him.