Biting the hand that feeds you

by Charlie Badenhop

Learn how to join with and utilize a person's current "bad" behavior. Rather than telling a person they are doing something "wrong" and suggesting a fix, validate their current model of the world, and change will occur "on its own."
Many years ago my parents gave me a parrot. The first thing I
learned is that parrots can be dangerous to be around. They can
do major damage to your fingers and other body parts. At the
time, I was living and working with my friend Reeves Teague. He
understood animals from a "country boy" perspective having grown
up in the mountains of North Carolina. Here is the process I
learned from Reeves, and modified over the years.

1. Invite an attack with an open and loving countenance.

The parrot is going to try and bite you no matter what, as a
natural act of self preservation. Instead of trying to stop him
from biting you, utilize his current behavior and encourage it.
Wear something to protect your fingers, and invite the parrot to
bite you.

Welcoming and utilizing the parrot's current behavior even if it
is violent, is very much in the spirit of Aikido and Ericksonian

In Ericksonian Hypnosis you utilize the client's "bad" behavior
and join with and validate their current model of the world,
rather than trying to change the client and give him the message
he is doing something wrong.

In Aikido when you encourage your counterpart to express
themselves physically, and they attack you, they are actually
following your directions, and doing what you have asked. At such
times the attack becomes definitely less violent, as the attacker
unconsciously realizes that on a deep level they are cooperating
with you.

Whether the activity be Aikido training or parrot training, when
you welcome the attack, the attack winds up being a lot less

2. Encourage violence and tenderness at the same time.

Leave your finger in the cage and encourage the parrot to gnaw on
it. With your free hand gently rub the parrot's head much like
you might do with a dog or cat. When you and the parrot are
tender and violent at the same time, you are beginning to engage
in the act of play.

3. Reward the negative behavior and thus reframe the meaning of
the behavior.

When you reward the "bad" behavior, the behavior is no longer
bad. The parrot bites your right hand and you reward him by
giving a snack with your left hand. The relationship is circular
in nature. It doesn't take long before the parrot loses his
enthusiasm for biting you. He still very much wants the snacks
you feed him after each attack, but he would rather not have to
do all of the biting to get the goodies.

4. Blur the starting and stopping points, blur the difference
between good and bad.

The parrot has been biting one hand and you have been nuzzling
the parrot and feeding him with your other hand. Now take the
hand that has been doing the nuzzling and feeding and present it
to the parrot for biting. When the parrot takes a playful nip,
you nuzzle him with the hand he was previously gnawing on.

When you encourage the parrot to bite the hand that feeds him!
His confusion will be obvious.

5. Change the reason for the reward. After the "break in" period
you only give a snack when the parrot is gentle and playful.
Little by little you thus change the reference behavior for
getting the snack. Usually at this stage, anyone that moves
slowly can play with the parrot with little concern about getting

I have found the above method, to be by far the fastest, easiest,
and most humane way to tame a parrot, and calm down children that
appear to have a violent streak.

Charlie Badenhop is the originator of Seishindo, an Aikido instructor, NLP trainer, and Ericksonian Hypnotherapist. Benefit from his thought-provoking ideas and a new self-help Practice every two weeks, by subscribing to his complimentary newsletter "Pure Heart, Simple Mind" at