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Let it Rip

This month's electric bill. His big sister's homework. The last chapter of the book you left on the coffee table. If it's made of paper, chances are your toddler will find it and rip it to shreds.

Tearing's a great game. There's the fascinating sound, plus the thrill of seeing an action produce such a definitive result. Not to mention the attention your child will get when you discover the damage. Ripping isn't all bad (it actually helps him develop fine motor skills), but sometimes it can feel like it! To survive this stage:

* Keep important papers out of reach. Better to help him avoid temptation than to teach him a lesson once your checkbook has been reduced to confetti.

* Don't give him old bills and magazines to tear up if the current ones are off-limits. He won't know the difference, so you'll probably wind up with more destroyed paperwork.

* Offer him something else  -- like used wrapping paper, tissue paper, or grocery bags.

* Remember that it won't last forever. While a toddler's love of ripping may continue after his second birthday, it's usually history by the time he's about 2 1/2 .

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