Q: I am writing about my 14-month-old daughter, Linda. She cries most of the day.

She was colicky for her first three months. She hardly slept and she screamed a lot, so I got used to holding her and walking her. As she grew older she got better and could play without demanding constant attention.

Now we seem to have had a big backslide. She will play briefly with her toys and books, but mostly she cries and hangs on my legs. I've been trying to pay attention to her when she is happy and not so much when she is whining, but it doesn't seem to work. I know that I am irritated, and she probably senses that and becomes more demanding.

We seem to be in a vicious cycle, and I don't know how to break it. She is learning to walk now, which may be a factor in all this. My pediatrician sees no physical problems.

She is fine on outings, but I can't take her out every waking hour. I have to get housework done sometime, and I have to get some time for myself.

I've had a teen-ager come in one afternoon a week, and have enrolled Linda in a Mother's Day Out program this fall for one day a week. But I still need help in handling her. I am beginning to feel rather desperate.

A: This is the sort of letter that wrings the heart.

For the last few decades parents have been taught that almost any behavioral problem has a psychological base. If it couldn't be cured with a salve, an antibiotic, an operation or a splint, something must be wrong with the child's ego or id and surely with the parents.

The child was subconsciously rejected in the womb perhaps, or maybe her parents didn't answer her quickly enough (or they answered too quickly) or the child cries because both of her parents work (or one of them stays home). You don't want to fall into this trap.

While it's true that a young child can be depressed, fearful or shy because of a family problem, it has to be a relentless or rather outrageous one to cause chronic distress.

And it's true that a child can (and usually does) get spoiled by too much bedtime attention--which only a lack of it can cure--and that she may wail when you leave her with a sitter, but this is different. Your child had a real problem when she had colic and she has a problem again. You can tell because she didn't change her ways when you rewarded the good behavior rather than the bad.

This doesn't mean the problem is critical in the medical sense; that would be obvious to your doctor. It is, however, serious enough to upset your family, and it's time to find the cause. The sudden switch in your daughter's behavior tells you that she is reacting to something that has changed in her life.

This is a good time to get the revised edition of Gesell Institute's Child Behavior, by Frances L. Ilg, M.D.; Louise Bates Ames, Ph.D., and Sidney M. Baker, M.D. (Harper & Row, $5.95). Their last section on behavioral illness--an extraordinary turn-around in pediatric advice--should be a must for all parents and pediatricians, for it reminds us that there is nature and nurture--and nutrition.

This is not just the food a child eats, but the sounds, smells and sights she takes into her body and how she absorbs them. The way she reacts to her environment can affect her behavior.

Allergies create many chronic problems, both physical and emotional. Your child may have a bellyache, stiff joints, fatigue or simply a case of the weeps: symptoms that come from the strips of fabric softener you may have started using, the new kitten, or the cow's milk you've added to her diet (which could have caused her colic if you drank milk and breast-fed her). Her body chemistry is as unique as her personality; it takes time to figure it out.

If you first answer the sensible, comprehensive questions in the Gesell book, you'll find that all the niggling little worries you've never dared to mention might be part of the puzzle. Without this information it would be hard for the doctor to give an PARENTS' ALMANAC: The Whining Child By Marguerite Kelly

Q: I am writing about my 14-month-old daughter, Linda. She cries most of the day.

She was colicky for her first three months. She hardly slept and she screamed a lot, so I got used to holding her and walking her. As she grew older she got better and could play without demanding constant attention.

Now we seem to have had a big backslide. She will play briefly with her toys and books, but mostly she cries and hangs on my legs. I've been trying to pay attention to her when she is happy and not so much when she is whining, but it doesn't seem to work. I know that I am irritated, and she probably senses that and becomes more demanding.

We seem to be in a vicious cycle, and I don't know how to break it. She is learning to walk now, which may be a factor in all this. My pediatrician sees no physical problems.

She is fine on outings, but I can't take her out every waking hour. I have to get housework done sometime, and I have to get some time for myself.

I've had a teen-ager come in one afternoon a week, and have enrolled Linda in a Mother's Day Out program this fall for one day a week. But I still need help in handling her. I am beginning to feel rather desperate.

A: This is the sort of letter that wrings the heart.

For the last few decades parents have been taught that almost any behavioral problem has a psychological base. If it couldn't be cured with a salve, an antibiotic, an operation or a splint, something must be wrong with the child's ego or id and surely with the parents.

The child was subconsciously rejected in the womb perhaps, or maybe her parents didn't answer her quickly enough (or they answered too quickly) or the child cries because both of her parents work (or one of them stays home). You don't want to fall into this trap.

While it's true that a young child can be depressed, fearful or shy because of a family problem, it has to be a relentless or rather outrageous one to cause chronic distress.

And it's true that a child can (and usually does) get spoiled by too much bedtime attention--which only a lack of it can cure--and that she may wail when you leave her with a sitter, but this is different. Your child had a real problem when she had colic and she has a problem again. You can tell because she didn't change her ways when you rewarded the good behavior rather than the bad.

This doesn't mean the problem is critical in the medical sense; that would be obvious to your doctor. It is, however, serious enough to upset your family, and it's time to find the cause. The sudden switch in your daughter's behavior tells you that she is reacting to something that has changed in her life.

This is a good time to get the revised edition of Gesell Institute's Child Behavior, by Frances L. Ilg, M.D.; Louise Bates Ames, Ph.D., and Sidney M. Baker, M.D. (Harper & Row, $5.95). Their last section on behavioral illness--an extraordinary turn-around in pediatric advice--should be a must for all parents and pediatricians, for it reminds us that there is nature and nurture--and nutrition.

This is not just the food a child eats, but the sounds, smells and sights she takes into her body and how she absorbs them. The way she reacts to her environment can affect her behavior.

Allergies create many chronic problems, both physical and emotional. Your child may have a bellyache, stiff joints, fatigue or simply a case of the weeps: symptoms that come from the strips of fabric softener you may have started using, the new kitten, or the cow's milk you've added to her diet (which could have caused her colic if you drank milk and breast-fed her). Her body chemistry is as unique as her personality; it takes time to figure it out.

If you first answer the sensible, comprehensive questions in the Gesell book, you'll find that all the niggling little worries you've never dared to mention might be part of the puzzle. Without this information it would be hard for the doctor to give an accurate diagnosis. You even may want to take your little girl to a pediatric allergist, since most pediatricians can't keep up with the rapid advances in allergies and immunology.

If allergies are the answer, you'll also want to read one of the best and simplest books on the subject, Understanding Allergies by Dr. John Gerrard (available by sending $6.95 to Charles Thompson Publishing Co., 301-327 E. Lawrence Ave., Springfield, Ill.).

If allergies aren't the problem, however, keep looking for a medical answer. Your daughter was born to feel good, to be happy, to smile.

A well-loved child doesn't want to cry all day any more than you want to hear her.

Questions may be sent to Parents' Almanac, Style Plus, The Washington Post. accurate diagnosis. You even may want to take your little girl to a pediatric allergist, since most pediatricians can't keep up with the rapid advances in allergies and immunology.

If allergies are the answer, you'll also want to read one of the best and simplest books on the subject, Understanding Allergies by Dr. John Gerrard (available by sending $6.95 to Charles Thompson Publishing Co., 301-327 E. Lawrence Ave., Springfield, Ill.).

If allergies aren't the problem, however, keep looking for a medical answer. Your daughter was born to feel good, to be happy, to smile.

A well-loved child doesn't want to cry all day any more than you want to hear her.