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The Terrible Twos

My son never went through the Terrible Twos. He breezed through two just as sweetly as he breezed through one. He was friendly and agreeable, and we got along happily almost all the time. (He was a very good negotiator though. His second sentence, for example, was “Not yet, soon.”)

He really was a nice little boy. Everybody who knew him thought so. And I assumed, rightly or wrongly, that my parenting style was working. I must be doing something right if my child was so nice and easy and happy all the time while all his two-year-old cohorts were being so Terrible.

This is the problem with raising one child. You give yourself credit for everything good, and blame for everything bad. You overestimate your influence. You don’t get to see, the way parents of multiple children do, that there are fundamental differences between children from the outset, and these fundamental differences interact differently with your parenting style, producing different outcomes. James just happened to be a sweet little boy who bypassed the Terrible Twos.

So imagine my surprise when Simon flew headlong straight into the heart of the Terrible Twos. I had heard that African Grey parrots go through it, but I guess I thought my parroting style would help him bypass it. No such luck. Practically overnight, Simon turned into a full-fledged Brat.

It started with biting me. At first I thought he was just doing it for fun, but now I think maybe he’s trying to make a point: “You’re not the boss of me.”

The next thing was flying like a madman all over the place. Up until now, he has flown as a form of transportation, to get from Point A to Point B. This kind of flying makes sense to me. But now he’s flying all the time, all over the place, every time he’s out of his cage. This would be okay (and in fact, it’s very nice on a hot day, since he generates a fair amount of breeze) but he seems to be using flight as a form of intimidation. He flies fast, whizzing by people’s heads. He flies at the other birds, averting course only at the last moment. He flies and swoops and freaks everybody out.

The third thing is that he’s picking on Kazoo. She’ll be sitting on a boing (a vertical spiral rope perch hanging from the ceiling), minding her own business, and he’ll fly over and claim the perch for himself and start lunging at her with his beak. Then they’ll have a face-off on the perch, with much lunging and counter-lunging. Generally Simon gains the advantage, and Kazoo ends up leaning way back, trying to avoid Simon’s beak, too off-balance to actually fly away, and I have to rescue her.

Even though Simon’s going through this brat stage, he still has a few moments of sweetness every day. I’ll give him a kiss and tell him I love him, and he’ll say “Wow!” in the most adorable little girl voice.





2 comments to The Terrible Twos

  • Cara

    This sounds quite a bit like what I went through with my male cockatiel who was determined to make himself into Top Bird with the rest of us, human and birds, as his servants. If your experience with Simon is anything like mine with Mo it won’t be a quite or necessarily easy process. Eventually I figured out that there’s a lot going on in terms of bird development ie mating, dominance, and just plain trying to figure out how to do something and who decides what’s acceptable.
    My advice: Be consistent. Set firm boundaries and fairly high expectations. Our vet suggested using a spray bottle to corral bad behaviour. I did this for a while and eventually discovered something that worked even better. The kleenex. It turns out Mo didn’t like Kleenex’s being pulled out of the box. So if he was behaving badly I threaten him with “The Kleenex”. I followed through and he began to understand I was serious. As time went on I could substitute throat clearing and pointing. He’s now 24 1/2 and a sweet little bird who will often look at me to see if he’s allowed to do something new.
    Good luck.

  • Cora, how many birds do you have? What kinds? I wouldn’t want to use the spray bottle method, since I’m trying to encourage him to like water. I love that you found something as innocent as a kleenex box to discipline him. :)