Parenting Hack – Behavior Square Chart
What I’m about to share with you is a huge parenting hack and a family secret that can aid your work in positive discipline with your children. As a child, my mother would hand draw behavior charts that looked like board games and deemed them: square charts. I always remember being on my best behavior and counting the squares I had left before my reward. My mother always said that the positive behavior she saw from my brother and me was worth the effort it took to craft the rewards.
What is a Square Chart?
A square chart is a behavioral chart that is crafted on the principles of behavioral psychology and works effectively for a multitude of reasons. A square chart is essentially a real-life board game, where the children decide what the rewards are throughout the board. The main reason a square chart is more effective than a classic sticker chart is that it changes the way your children frame their behavior. Instead of working to earn a sticker on an extrinsic reward that they may or may not have decided on, they get to pick a reward that works as both an extrinsic and intrinsic reward for their behavior based on their personality and interests. This method teaches children goal-planning and strengthens the idea that gratification can come from long term goals.
How do I finish the square chart?
Unlike other behavioral methods, children can earn and lose squares on a case by case basis. Rewards are given based upon a variable-ratio schedule, which is a “type of partial reinforcement that involves reinforcing behavior after a varied number of responses. This leads to both a high response rate and slow extinction rates.” Squares or rewards are not bound to specific actions or a specific amount of times an action is performed, rather they are rewarded as the parent sees fit as a form of positive reinforcement. The variable-ratio schedule is the most effective form of reinforcement pattern in behavioral psychology, as behavior is quickly learned, and not easily forgotten.
Forms of reinforcement used
What makes square charts so effective is that they utilize all four forms of reinforcement known in behavioral psychology: positive reinforcement, positive punishment, negative reinforcement, and negative punishment. To many parents, the terms positive and negative reinforcement is not new, but in behavioral psychology, they have different definitions.
Rewarding squares serve as a form a positive reinforcement, by adding a positive stimulus to the desired behavior. Positive Punishment can be used from adding the negative stimulus of threatening to take away squares for undesired behavior. Taking away squares serves as a form of negative punishment, as you are removing a positive stimulus for undesired behavior. And lastly, negative reinforcement is used when squares are added back after seeing a correction in behavior. Consistency is key to making this system effective. You must always be looking for signs of social behavior that you would like to reward or punish, whether that is giving someone a hug, or biting their sister. Overall I hope you find this system effective as I have in my childcare career, and that it helps your children form positive developmental social behaviors.
About the Author
Grace O’Malley is a childcare provider with nine years of experience in the field. Grace currently runs the blog Nanny Notebook, which is a brand meant to empower Nannies through product development, education, and professional accountability. Check out her blog nannynotebook.com or her Instagram @official.nanny.notebook for more information.