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Wit & Wisdom: Barred for Life

Q. My 18-month-old son bites. According to his childcare provider, his biting is unprovoked. She tried teaching him that biting is wrong by sitting him in a chair for a time-out, but he just crawled down and bit the same kid again. Help!

A. Since your son is still too young to talk, I wouldn't be surprised if his behavior has something to do with his frustration at not being able to express his thoughts in words. And judging from your description of his actions, once he's able to talk, he's really going to tell somebody off.

I think your caregiver was on the right track when she removed your son from the action. But let's face it, expecting a strong-willed kid to sit quietly in a chair and contemplate his actions is about as reasonable as suggesting to Tarzan that he lower his voice and stay in one tree.

You need to create a place for time-outs that is escape-proof and safe, like a sturdy playpen. A time-out doesn't need to be longer than a minute, but if it's done consistently it can help your son learn that when he misbehaves, he'll have to spend time somewhere he'd rather not be. The same applies to grown-ups who eat too much cheesecake and have to go into a dressing room and zip up slim-fit jeans. Although they'd like to bite the salesclerk, they've learned that if they don't change their diets, they'll have to go back in and try on a swimsuit.

Contributing editor Janet Konttinen is a syndicated humor columnist. She has one son and triplet daughters.

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