[Much of this article is written tongue-in-cheek. Nonetheless, I think the gist of the advice is good. It follows behavioral science and guidelines but staggers around a bit like Dean Martin on a bender.]
A parrot perfectly imitates a baby crying. It makes you wonder, doesn’t it? Why would a parrot cry like a baby? While watching this video makes most of us smile, living with such an Amazon could get to be less than a happy state of affairs. Care to walk around in flight deck earmuffs?
So why does this parrot cry? Well, if you have seen parents in action they will nearly stop at nothing to get an infant to stop wailing. This is partly instinct and partly cultural. Parents will feed their babies out of instinct. It’s biological. A baby crying evokes an unconscious need.
On the other hand, Dr. Benjamin Spock had — I believe — a skewed idea of what it means to be a child. He changed the way we raise kids. Spock was a pediatrician born in 1903 who wrote a popular book in 1946, “Baby and Child Care,” where he nearly deified kids: he made children into gods. From his perspective childhood is a golden age in life. He told parents to find ways to give in to their children. This need not be the prevalent opinion. Other cultures, a good example is the B’Mbuti in the Ituri Forest of Kenya (see Colin Turnbull’s The Forest People), consider childhood to be a time of darkness and instead glorify and celebrate adulthood. Most would consider this a backward or primitive view since the B’Mbuti are pygmies. Quite the contrary! At the time I read Turnbull’s book they had no war, no murder, and no social unrest. They didn’t even need a government — they had none — to keep the peace. For the moment, at least consider the possibility that there are other ways to behave with children. For starters, you might start acting more like Mr. Spock in Star Trek.
So what does a parrot see? It sees mommy and daddy drop everything to give their newborn attention when it cries.
What is the result of our dreadful toadying? Where does our endless servitude and obedience to a barely formed consciousness take us? To what end our bondage to an infant?
Parrots are quick studies. They have a five-year-old’s intelligence and the emotional needs of a two-year-old (with some exceptions, most notably choosing to mate for life). They learn by modeling: watching others get what they want and learning by example. They learn vicariously: watching others get hurt and avoiding the dangers themselves.
So dropping everything to sooth a baby in front of a parrot is exactly what you should not do! Well, unless you will enjoy hearing little Tyler’s crying for the rest of your life. Some would, I suppose. Not me!
The solution? Ignore the cries for a minute or two (unless the child is in danger) and then unceremoniously remove it from the room. Make sure your feathered one does not hear you groveling, sucking up to, and toadying up to the 3 month old little Tyler. Besides, crawling on your belly like a slave is dreadful! Use this kind of behavior when asking for a raise from your boss or one word of kindness from your spouse. Both of these usually need belly crawling and toadying. Now that I think of it, that behavior teaches both spouse and employer to lose respect for you, too.
After taking care of the baby’s needs be sure to go back to the bird and reward it for saying “Tyler is a cry baby.” Just kidding. Reward the bird for a behavior you would like to see repeated such as: step up, saying “Hello,” or making kissing sounds. Don’t be a Scrooge! Give the parrot a little treat and reinforce a good behavior several times. If George the parrot cries ignore him. Wait until he does something you enjoy and then reward him again.
If someone in your family says “Ah cute!” when George starts crying: call a tree service. Next, rent a wood chipper. You know where that family member needs to go! If you can’t figure that out then watch the movie Fargo. Of course, I am not serious. But you get the idea. Don’t let anyone teach your parrot bad habits. If they think it’s funny then let them have that cream pie in the refrigerator right in the kisser! After the pie, urge your parrot to laugh. Timing is everything!
You might try rewarding your infant for good behavior, too! Unless, of course, you prefer groveling!