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New this month: Letting it all hang out
Having a toddler will humble you. If you have friends or siblings who had children before you did, you probably witnessed scenes that appalled you: temper tantrums and acts of aggression that you silently swore no child of yours would ever do. Well, guess what? All children, even the most mild-mannered and cooperative, act irrationally on occasion. You cannot control your child's behavior. You can only teach, model the behavior you want to see. At 16 months, a toddler still acts on nearly every impulse, and it will take years of guidance from you before he has enough self-control to behave appropriately in every — or almost every — situation.
Since a 16-month-old still believes the world revolves around him, it might help if you think of his outbursts as performances. If he doesn't have an audience, he will probably stop performing, so whenever possible (i.e., if he's in a safe environment and can't endanger himself or anyone else) leave the area. Or just say "No" and then offer a different toy or take your child to a different place to play.
What you can do
If your toddler has started to throw tantrums (or to throw punches or toys), it may help you deal with his negative behavior if you understand that such impulses are healthy and normal. It's human to have feelings of aggression and even anger, but the difference between you and your toddler is that you've learned to pull your punches — at least most of the time. If your child hits, bites, throws objects, or lashes out in other inappropriate ways, it's your job to take control for him, and help him figure out how to express his emotions in safer ways, such as ripping up paper, pounding a pillow, or squishing playdoh.
Toddlers live large — they love large, they play all out, and they have big, passionate feelings. When they need to have an emotional blow-out, they may signal it by doing something they know you will stop, like pulling another child's hair, or by using a small pretext, like a broken cookie, as a "last straw" so that they can fall apart. You can calmly say, "No, I can't let you pull Jasmine's hair," and hold him away from her. He will use this limit to hit up against so that he can have the tantrum that will clear out his bad feelings so he can get back on track.
Other developments: Manners
Your toddler is ready to learn to say "the magic words" — please and thank you — at least some of the time. You don't have to push him to say them in every instance — he's noticing when other people use them and the pleased reactions of grownups when children use them.
While it's unreasonable to expect your 16-month-old to say please and thank you all the time, if you set a good example, your child will follow. If you recognize that much of what children learn they learn through imitation, it makes sense that your child will do as you do when it comes to etiquette.
See all our articles on toddler development.