One of our most powerful resources in companion parrot advocacy, companion parrot care, and our own flock health is the words we choose to use. The spoken word can redefine a nation, declare a war, heal the sick, lift spirits, edify, empathize, energize and lead a new way of thinking. The spoken and written word are, to me, the very fabric to any idea. Use the wrong words and the message, goal and outcome will be damaged. Use the correct words and amazing results will come. Make no mistake, what you say and what you write on a daily basis affects you, your parrots, your joy, your family and your future. I believe this without waiver. And I apply it in every moment of my advocacy, life, and writing.
I received a link to an article titled "How we kill our pet birds". I didn't read it. I won't read it. The title breaks my rules of words for parrot advocacy. Rule One: Parrots are not pets! EVER. I will never put the word bird or parrot in the same sentence as the word pet unless I am declaring or explaining Rule One itself. AGAIN; Parrots are not pets! If you use this word you have lost my interest in anything you have to say. Parrots are companions, if you should choose to treat them as pets, that is your loss and your sin. Rule Two; declaring instruction through negative statements is counter productive to growth and edification. How we kill our pet birds? I understand the content may list things you should not do, but why not "How to keep our Companion Parrots Safer"? Empower the idea of safety rather than generate a fearful threat in a companion parrot parent's mind. Words. Words are how we are going to change the landscape for companion parrots. FlockCall is the name of my website and advocacy work because it is the very nature of the flock call that defines a flock, it's habits, health and verve. The spoken word, the flock call, is the very fabric of a flock's life.
It has to start with our own flock in our own home. And I always start with me first. Every word spoken in our home is positive. Bad Bird! has taken on a silly meaning with Felix. He brought that forward from his previous life. I worked with him to turn it into an inside joke. Now he just yells it at Snickers as a proximity warning, then snorts and laughs. Or, he yells it at himself after begging for attention, then chuckles.
We say things like, "Be nice." when changing a mindset. Snickers gets over stimulated easily with his dad. He so loves his dad. He nips, chomps and pulls hair. "Be nice." is the quiet, deep voiced instruction. Words are powerful. We state what we want to be done, not what we want stopped. Sounds incredulous I suppose, but it works. Because as humans we have already learned through childhood language building the art of inflection. It's the inflections that parrots FIRST learn. THEN they attach that meaning/result/event to the word after a number of uses. That's why clicker training works. It's the sound first, THEN the word you may attach with the after affect. Snickers knows what "Be nice." means. He immediately stops what he shouldn't be doing, lowers his head and then comes back with some sort of amazingly cute and obnoxiously adorable Scarlet Macaw look. And then dad and I are melted pats of butter. Snickers has learned the art of adorable for sure.
Our parrots learn by every word and attitude we speak in our home. Just like children. There is little difference outside of the simplicity of the learning process. A cockatiel knows we are frustrated the same way an African Grey does. They are paying attention to us. By decision and declaration we have established our house as a sanctuary for our flock, family and friends. No anger, no yelling, no cursing, no griping, moaning, groaning, whining or hissy fits. It's all negative selfish behavior that fixes nothing at all, but feeds an ego wanting to feel important. Deep thoughts, I know. But parrots exposed to those behaviors consistently will begin to act in concert with the environment. We call it bad behavior, THEY are thinking this is mom or dad after a bad day at work. Growl. Throw toys. Nip. Sulk and sit in a corner requiring far too much cajoling. But it makes sense to them as this is body language, inflection and actions their flock taught them. Words, actions and acceptable practices are what the flock creates, accepts and propagates as a whole.
It's up to us to lead by attitude, word, inflection and action. Yes, I do believe this literally, because I have walked into too many homes to work with a parrot (actually the human in the room) and I find a parrot who's attitude is a direct copy of their human. The parrot's "bad behavior" is a direct result of things like human child/parent arguments, or marriages in trouble, or those too tired to do much but the basics of care for the parrot. They treat the parrot as an after thought, and the parrot returns that favor.
Words spoken outside of our flock mean something as well. Next time you're on Facebook about to post an angry, defensive, declarative, accusatory statement, stop. Just stop for a minute. And think about what the ramifications mean to you, your mind, your heart and your mindset for the rest of the day. You may be right. You may be very VERY right. But what is the point of it really? What do you want from this moment, and will you actually receive that result? I see so many parrot page owners fighting among each other over who started what first, who has the better heart or goal, and on and on. The end result has NO benefit to companion parrots, but divides parrot folk into groups more interested in being right and part of some self perceived righteousness than they are about doing what's right and better for companion parrots.
And you can take it as fact, once you get yourself wound up emotionally like that you WILL take it forward into your home, your flock and your day. You may not even notice it, but you will. And that is so sad. It is a waste of good energy, positive possibility, and forward movement. All to be right, being right isn't the goal. Being kind, that's the goal.
Today is a good day because we are kind, we lift up, we share, we care and help. We can laugh while we do these things. We can laugh together. We can, through this simple truth of words, make every flock everywhere, happier.
That's what I'm interested in, it's really all I'm interested in.