When toddlers start screaming the minute they get into the barber's chair, it isn't just because they don't like sitting still.

"Children aren't clear on where their bodies begin and end," says Lesley Koplow, a child social worker in New York.Cutting hair thus implies that part of them is being removed and lost forever.

"In addition," she says, "children cannot understand why their parents - their protectors - are causing this ordeal rather than preventing it."

Phil MacDonald, who runs Fantastic Sam's International Haircutters in Brooklyn, N.Y., says "the earlier you bring a child in, the better. Most children get their first haircut between 11/2 and 2 years. When a child gets her first salon haircut at around 3 years old, she is usually harder to handle."

Kaplow suggests helping the child anticipate what will happen, which gives him a feeling of control. Either let the child watch parents get haircuts or let her rehearse on a doll's hair.