Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Saboteurs Among Us

Parents know the importance of a united front when rearing children. For their part, children learn quickly if they can play one parent off another! If mom says no... ask dad! Maybe he'll say yes!!!

However, when mom and dad have a united front and excellent communication, the likelihood of being manipulated by their precious, innocent little munchkins is greatly reduced. Both parents have the same standards, behavioral expectations and responses.

Naturally, you know where I'm going with this... the same applies to our birds! Like children, they quickly learn the behaviors and expectations of various family members.

Let's face it, if we are working to correct a behavior problem in our bird, and another family member inadvertently or purposely sabotages our efforts, it can be a little more than frustrating.

So, what to do?

There are many parallels between raising children and living with birds. If we were facing this dilemma in regards to parenting, the logical advice would be for the parents to sit down, communicate with one another, design a plan, create boundaries, and work toward a solution. Time would be set aside for frequently comparing notes, and making any adjustments as needed.

In the case of our birds, the same advice applies. From time to time, we may find ourselves faced with a family member that is perpetuating an undesirable behavior, or otherwise working at odds with our efforts.

Some considerations:

1) Assume the best. We all appreciate it when others assume the best of us, and it is nice to be able to return this blessing. Absent clear and convincing evidence to the contrary, if we assume our loved one is unaware of the consequences of their actions, our approach toward them is more likely to be positive and successful. Even if they are aware, and find it cute to watch the bird crawl into a bag of potato chips, our success will be bolstered by a gracious conversation.

2) Describe specific ways in which the loved one can make a difference. A statement such as "there you go again, reinforcing bad behavior!" does not provide concrete information on what was done, how things could have been done differently, or the impact upon the bird, training and relationships.

3) Provide ways the loved one can be part of the solution. If they can see that their efforts to help reduce the bird's excessively loud vocalizations are working, they will be more engaged and invested in maintaining the training plan. Set the loved one up for success by providing ways they can be part of that working solution.

Example:

Our bird is a bit of a pudgie-budgie. We've provided increased opportunities for flight exercise, and a well balanced diet, but PB lovessss him some millet... (don't they all!) And, our loved one (LO) really enjoys watching PB go crazy over the millet. Every chance, LO is slipping PB a spray of millet. LO doesn't really think PB is that overweight...

A couple of things we might consider:

* Create a chart to follow PB's weight loss progress.
* Involve LO in the weekly weighings.
* Plan a celebration when PB reaches the goal weight set by his avian veterinarian.
* Since PB will be getting some limited treats each day, allow LO the joy of dispensing those treats.

* Provide LO access to reading material about the positive benefits of a good diet (and the detriments of a poor diet).
* Serve LO a wonderful breakfast in bed the following Saturday morning to express your gratitude for the help, and support, complete with the daily newspaper inside which is taped a thank you card "from PB" himself !!!

In no time, you'll be turning that would-be saboteur into a most supportive and reliable parront!



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2 comments:

Arlene said...

Robin, for me this really hit home. Stop creeping around in my brain. :D

I'm experiencing the very same thing right here at home. I'm trying positive and negative reinforcement to make our little budgie Rosie stop biting. And I have success with it.
...When along comes the mister and lets her bite.
And what did I say?...I said "there you go again".
Then I tried to explain again about the reinforcements. I'm showing him how I use positive or negative reinforcement to help Rosie to agree to stop biting. I think it'll work.
Thanks for the post Robin. I think I'll let "somebody" read it. :)

louara said...

I am so lucky that the people in my household for the most part respect the rules and boundaries I implement for our pets. I can imagine the frustration one must feel when taking one step forward and then two steps back.
Great post once again Robin.

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