Friday, March 24, 2006

Do They Make Muzzles For Toddlers?

Bagel's got quite a biting problem. This morning he bit Knuckles' face and drew blood. More typically he tries to bite Knuckles' toes while he's nursing. The problem is, he thinks biting is a way to show affection or get attention, and he doesn't understand that it hurts. And I don't know how to get that through to him, since he's only 21 months old.

Basically, when a child is doing something you don't want him to do, you have three options: you can get the child to quit doing it, you can block the child from being physically able to do it, or you can remove the child from the situation. The first, of course, is the most desirable, since the child will eventually have to learn to quit doing it anyway. The second is more of a temporary solution; children are smart and eventually will figure out how to defeat any barrier we adults can come up with. The third is great if you plan to reintroduce the child to the situation later on when they're more mature.

Solution #3 is, of course, impractical: we can't remove Bagel from the family. We've tried Solution #1 to no avail. Bagel interprets our attempts at verbal discipline as non-binding suggestions not to bite his brother, and our pushing him back or pulling him off the baby as playful attempts to play keep-away with the baby as the object. He's too young to be reasoned with and told that biting hurts, so we've tried a program of slapping him whenever he bites so that he comes to associate biting with pain. None of these have worked, and we're out of ideas. We don't want to bite him back as hard as he bites because we really don't want him genuinely hurt. Bagel is leaving marks and even drawing blood with some of these bites.

That leaves Solution #2: childproof the baby. We can partially do this by putting the baby in the crib... if we can keep Bagel off the baby long enough to get the crib fixed (it's still broken from the jailbreak episode). [UPDATE: I broke out the playpen and put Knuckles in the playpen, but when Bagel couldn't bite or scratch, he took 1 pound cones of yarn and threw them at Knuckles' head.] But that won't stop the biting of toes during Knuckles' feedings. I'm currently shutting Bagel up in his room with the door locked (since he can open it) if he can't control himself, but that's not teaching him not to bite. So I'm wondering if it would be cruel to find some way to muzzle Bagel so that he can't bite, at least until he's old enough to be reasoned with and be made to understand that biting hurts the baby and he has to stop it. Alternatively, we could try to find some sort of cage to put around Knuckles so that Bagel can't get to him. (I'm visualizing Knuckles crawling around inside some sort of giant hamster ball.) But even that wouldn't stop Bagel from biting me, which he does whenever I don't immediately get up and serve him food on demand.

Any ideas would be welcome. I'm about at the end of my rope today. It's so bad that I sent Bagel outside to play with Sonshine because he was in less danger of getting hurt outside in the street with his brother than inside the house with me.