One of those annoying forums that I've joined on LinkedIn, recently asked the question: what's the best advice you've ever been given?' I assume it was meant in a corporate sense, but the first thing that came to my mind was this: children need the most love when they're on their worst behaviour.
Of course, this piece of advice was very interesting to the mother of three badly behaved children, one of whom was prone to major tantrums, so I decided to test it out. It was a normal afternoon. My daughter had just thrown the TV remote control at the window because I wouldn't allow her to cut her own hair with a nail scissors. That the window had cracked as a result didn't seem to cure her anger, so she did the rigid back and the big tears move, before throwing herself on the floor kicking and screaming until she managed to kick over a cup that hence spilled cold tea onto the floor. This was the part where I normally either started to join in by screaming myself whilst dragging her to her feet, or alternatively by just bursting into tears and ending up on the floor too.
The new advice changed all that. Whilst in mid-temper and preparing to throw a cup through a glass cabinet door, I swooped down like an eagle and picked up the child. 'C'mere to me', I said, landing us both on the sofa, 'you're my gorgeous girlie, and I hate when you're sad.' She tucked her head into my arm and whimpered. Then she fell asleep.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not an easy touch who'll let someone walk all over me, I just find it's easier to deal with the bad behaviour after the tantrum, so the empathy during the tantrum is an instrument to nip it in the bud. It's also quite probable that my child was so traumatized by her mother being kind that it shocked her into never having a tantrum again.
But I've edited this piece of advice to suit other situations, and I'll swear by it. I'd say: people need the most empathy when they are on their worst behaviour, or underperforming or just being difficult. Don't even analyse it, don't ask yourself why that person is acting this or that way, just be nice to them, be supportive, be on their side, help them. Believe me, you'll find it works.
Besides, when people irritate or annoy you, are rude to you or make your life difficult, being nice to them in return will have an impact on that behaviour, and even if it doesn't it'll impact you, you'll feel better for not entering things at their level.
I've a few more bits of advice that'll be on offer on my new business blog, which I'll let you know about once it's all set up.
On the subject of tantrums though, I think this TV commercial also offers some even better advice...