Territory Stories

Let's start: a program for Territory parents and children



Let's start: a program for Territory parents and children

Other title

Let's Start parent child program


Robinson, Gary; Mares, Sarah; Jones, Yomei; Stock, Carolin; Hallenstein, Birgit; Branchut, Virginie


E-Publications; E-Books; PublicationNT




This paper describes the 'Let's Start' program for Aboriginal parents and children in the Northern Territory, including its context, rationale, and the evidence of its effectiveness. This program follows on from the 'Ngaripirliga'ajirri - Exploring Together Program' for school aged children in the Tiwi Islands, run from 1999-2004, and the 'Let's Start - Exploring Together for Indigenous Preschools' program for younger children in the Tiwi Islands as well as Darwin, which was run from 2006-2010. Based on this experience, the program has been adapted and redeveloped as the 'Let's Start Parent-Child Program'.; Made available via the Publications (Legal Deposit) Act 2004 (NT).


Centre for Child Development and Education, Menzies School of Health Research

Table of contents

Background -- Introduction -- What is Let's Start? -- Early intervention: context and rationale -- Conclusion: the Let's Start approach -- References.




Children, Aboriginal Australian; Services for; Parenting; Study and teaching

Publisher name

Menzies School of Health Research

Place of publication



21 pages : colour illustrations ; 30 cm.

File type



9781922104021; 9781922104038

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Check within Publication or with content Publisher.

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14 Lets Start Parent Child Program 2. Early Intervention: Context and Rationale 2.1 The Theoretical Basis of Lets Start The Lets Start Program is a model for reflective, evidence-based practice for early intervention work with families and communities in the Northern Territory. Lets Start incorporates approaches from a number of proven sources. It draws on social learning, attachment and systems theories and an anthropological analysis of culture, family life, peer and sibling relationships and patterns of communication developed over years of work with Aboriginal families. Lets Start represents a unique synthesis of approaches. Psychological anthropology focuses on the way cultural patterns influence parenting and child development. Parenting is framed by institutions of family and kinship and particular ideas of responsibility for children which often involve elaborated roles for multiple caregivers who may include older siblings, aunts and uncles and grandparents of small children. These kinds of relationship and the associated ideas about childrens growth and development need to be brought into the centre of parenting and early intervention. However, it is not enough to understand culture or kinship in any particular setting. It is important that these understandings can be brought together with key concepts of parenting and child development from developmental research. Social Learning Theory focuses on the way behaviour is learned through observation and reinforcement. Reinforcement occurs when behaviour is rewarded (with attention or praise). Attention can be positive or negative. Parents and children may become entrapped in negative interactions in which escalating naughtiness produces negative parental reactions that do not bring the behaviour to an end. An aim of behavioural management is to learn how to de-escalate by shifting the balance towards positive types of attention, partly by focusing on what the child is doing well, rather than reacting to bad behaviour. Patterns of positive and negative attention and negative escalations are highly variable across cultural settings. Where multiple caregivers are involved, children may in effect escalate by withdrawing from one source of attention to seek another, or may escalate their behaviour to produce a response from someone who has withdrawn and is unavailable. Parents are faced with choices about whether to respond or to withdraw, and the easy availability of alternative caregivers such as the childs siblings or peers, can provide a pretext for withdrawal. Lets Start elicits parents accounts of their childrens behaviours and encourages them to identify their own patterns of response to them. The aim is for parents to recognise the power of their responses to their childrens needs and to gain a stronger sense of efficacy. Systems Theory informs us that the functioning of one person in a family is affected by and affects all other people in that family (and by their interactions with others outside the family). Childrens behaviours may be a symptomatic response to stresses or pressures acting on them from within the family system. The behaviour of other people in the family or its surrounding network may directly or indirectly target the child is such a way that the child incurs excessively harsh responses, for example, by being blamed or criticised by family members. This is motivated by the needs of others rather than concern about the needs of the child. A child may be placed in a situation of anxious insecurity because of the behaviour of others towards important attachment figures: for example, family violence, or aggressive demands on the childs parents might lead them to pay less attention to the A death or relationship breakup causes complex adjustment in a family, and the impacts of loss and family adjustments after loss on a child may not be noticed. Family conflict or the suicidal behaviour of family members can cause a child anxiety and lead him to put himself at risk in order to gain attention and influence the behaviour of others. Lets Start explores family relationships and the meaning of childrens behaviours in the contexts of these relationships. Parents are invited to literally map out the key relationships, including those that are a source of tension for the child, and to

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