Sunday, October 18, 2009

Relationship Building

In follow up to my post: Night Night, Curtain, I wanted to make a comment on relationship building. As you will recall, Coco had screamed after I had closed the curtain. I thought it was bed time, but she had a different idea! I returned to the room to discover that the curtain had not actually been closed all the way. She was alerting me to this by her persistent calling.

We all can recognize that if we have an unmet need, and a person in our life who we expect is able to meet that need, and they fail to do so, it could very well affect our relationship with them on one level or another.

The extent to which our relationship is affected depends on a number of factors, including the status of the relationship, the importance of the need, and even perhaps the perceived reason for the need not having been met by the person.

I believe that if one of my birds has a need that I am able to meet, and I do in fact meet that need, it is a relationship-building activity. I am seen as the 'one who meets needs'. As beneficial as this can be on the relationship, the flip side is that if there is an expectation that I will meet a need, and fail to do so, my relationship with my bird could be affected as well.

Whether the need is interaction, food, quiet, music, or any of a number of things that I have learned over the years (through my relationship with her, experiences and observations) that Coco desires, I strive to provide those needs. My ability to meet a need allows me to become associated with the reinforcer (the need/desire).

There are certain instances and circumstances of screaming being self-rewarding or self-reinforcing. I have learned that Coco's self-rewarding squawks sound entirely different than a need-based alert. If she is squawking in response to hearing the crows outside, or seeing a squirrel on the deck or simply in response to a nature cd, it has a different tone to my ear. Unfortunately, it is not something I can describe, but something I have experienced. I am sure you are all the same with your birds; as a mother with a fussy child knows if he is being fussy or is tired, hungry or wet. Experience with our birds, time and relationship, help us to discern the differences.

I must keep in mind that my inability to observe or discern a need does not automatically qualify it as self-rewarding and in need of 'ignoring'. I had believed that Coco had everything she needed to prepare for bed time until I actually went into the room to investigate. Then I discovered that the curtain was not completely closed.

So, it is my goal to discover the function behind any alerting. In addition to reducing it, I am able to meet her needs and thus strengthen our relationship.



Arlene said...

Great post Robin. What if a spoiled little budgie wants something and wants it now. Namely my Rosie squawks because I walk away after giving her a Cheerio. Should I give her another or divert her attention to something that doesn't involve eating goodies?
The "gimme another one" yell is different from the "birds outside" yell. You get to know the different type of yell. And since I know what she wants when she yells for a Cheerio, should I respond to that; or is that fostering unwanted behavior.

Robin said...

I might be tempted to give this a try: mix her cheerio into a foraging activity as opposed to you 'giving it' directly to her. Get some paper from the family shredding machine, and mix a few cheerios into it... give it to her in a special cup that is for this purpose. After a few days, you should be able to hand her that cup with a couple of cheerios and shredded paper, give her a foraging activity, and you will be able to leave the room knowing that she is engaged and satisfied. Might work for you?

Arlene said...

Hey good idea! I'm going to give that a try.
She'll think it's really something special. Thanks. :-)

louara said...

Building and maintaining a relationship is so important. I am not at home on weeknights to put my budgie to bed, so another family member does and it has become very important to her that only this person put her to bed. If I try to on the weekend or a holiday, she fusses and "tosses and turns" as I call it until she sees that person, and then she will go to sleep. It is the same for the morning routine. She will not eat her veggies until she sees me.
No matter who gets her up.
Do you think it is bad for her to have these expectations?

Robin said...

I don't think it is bad for her to have those expectations. :) Birds are more aware of our 'patterns' then we will ever be. We just don't want to set a pattern that we are not willing and/or able to maintain. For example, if she will only take the veggies from you in the morning, it never hurts to have another person accompany you. (Associate them with the fabulous experience of getting veggies from their mom). ;)

There are little things we can do to maintain certain routines will also mixing things up a bit to keep their little minds thinkin'! :D

louara said...

That's a good idea. On the weekends, I will be nearby and let another person give her the veggies and at bedtime I will put her to bed while that person stands closeby. I just don't want her to not be able to adapt or be stressed out if our schedules change.
I'll keep you posted on her reaction.
Thank you.

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