Kanye West: A lesson in not always getting what you want

Kanye West offered a valuable lesson for how not to behave when things don't quite go your way. At a recent concert, Mr. West chided two fans among thousands for not dancing, only to learn they were disabled.

Jonathan Alcorn/Reuters
Rapper Kanye West performs during the Made in American music festival in Los Angeles, California August 31, 2014.

Singer Kanye West provided a powerful lesson on why we might want to help kids learn to manage their expectations and their behavior after he stopped a concert to demand that every audience member stand up, including those in wheelchairs.

The recipe for this media fiasco was one part short-sightedness and a 10-pound bag of stubborn, all half-baked. Part of the failure here was that Mr. West was all out of the main ingredient for success – situational awareness.

While it seems like a fairly typical move for a singer to shout “stand up” to motivate a crowd, videos posted to YouTube show the Mr. West crossed the line when he led his Sydney, Australia audience into bullying mode by getting them to boo whomever was still seated.

Reports vary as to the specific number of those seated and whether or not they were in wheelchairs or otherwise disabled. 

In any case, West kept pointing to those still seated, asking security to go see why they weren't standing. After a long pause in the show, security informed him that those being singled-out were, in fact, unable to stand.

Watching video from the concert, it seems that the crowd shifted from bullying (through booing) the non-standing patrons to booing West for stubbornly refusing to continue. The whole thing backfired badly, both at the event and in media reports afterward.

I wanted to tell Mr. West the old joke on how to remember the spelling of the word assume. 

West not only made the assumption that everyone in his audience was able to stand on command, but took that a step further by assuming the lack of compliance was a personal affront.

The situation reminds me of the dog with a bone in one of Aesop’s fables. The dog has a juicy bone. He passes a pool and looks down to see another dog (his reflection) with a bone. Being greedy the dog barks at his reflection to try and make the other dog give up his bone. Of course, this results in dropping the real bone into the pool where it’s lost.

West had thousands of people feeding his ego, but chose to bark at the one who wasn’t and in so doing suffered a great loss of support.

The moment West shifted his focus on stage from being a performer pleasing the crowd and made it about pleasing himself, he was in trouble.

Some will say West acted like a child and I have to agree.

Any parent of a child who is a perfectionist about their performance (on stage or off), needs to be ready to talk-down a kid ready to pitch a tantrum over their own performance, or who might blame others for not living up to their expectations.

If West were one of my sons, I would have to reason with him afterwards and explain that while it wasn’t perfect in his mind, thousands of people were happy until he made them otherwise with his choice to stop the show.

Kids grapple with a need to live in a planned world where order and control are anchors to emotional wellbeing.

As parents we help our kids learn coping skills and to manage their expectations.

Perhaps this incident reminds us to teach our kids not to be “a dog with a bone,” someone who relentlessly gnaws at others to do what they want or expect. We can teach them that, as in this case, failing to manage your expectations and behavior can come back to bite you.

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