Are Boot Camps for Teenagers Just About Drill Sergeants and Punishment?

There are some stereotypes about what life will be like for your teenager at a juvenile boot camp. Some of these stereotypes are grounded in truth and others are based on mythology that comes from the movies or promotional literature. The idea of putting your son or daughter in a place where drill sergeants are sadistic and always yelling can be a deterrent to a parent. Even if you know that your troubled teenager needs a dramatic turn around experience, you wonder if your offspring could survive a world that is filled with nonstop verbal abuse and 12-18 hours a day of harsh physical training.

The valid reasons for certain stereotype concepts about juvenile boot camps come from the fact that these aggressive programs for rehabilitating troubled teenagers are based on the military boot camp model.  The ability of military boot camps to take a group of “raw recruits” and in a matter of weeks turn them into battle ready soldiers has much to teach us about turning troubled teenagers around. That is the model that was used in designing the first juvenile boot camps and much of the methodology of a military boot camp is used in the corresponding boot camps used to rescue youth who are on a downward spiral.  But there are many unique aspects to boot camps for teenagers that separate them from their military equivalents as well.

How Military and Juvenile Boot Camps Are Similar

Parents should make no mistake about the use of the term “boot camp” when it comes to these organizations. The term is not figurative. Many aspects of the military style boot camp are retained by juvenile boot camps to help turn around the lives of troubled teenagers. Probably the most obvious trait of both boot camps is the drill sergeant. This individual will be the ultimate authority in the life of your teenager for the entire term of the boot camp experience.

From the minute a new group of teenagers arrives at the juvenile boot camp facility, the drill sergeant takes over. This individual will use forceful and sometimes loud management methods to enforce the rules of the camp on the teenagers who come there for training. The drill sergeant will be with the teenagers under his or her charge from sunrise until they go to their bunks exhausted at night. For a group of teenagers in a juvenile boot camp, they will come to hate and then respect the drill sergeant. But at all times they will obey this individual because that is never “optional”.

The lifestyle of a youth who is going through a juvenile boot camp will resemble their counterparts in a military organization as well. The life of a teenager at a boot camp will occur in a barracks situation where your teenager will sleep in a room with 20-30 youth who make up a patrol. Your teenager will go through his or her entire boot camp experiment with the same other teenagers which will develop a sense of community and bonding as they struggle to deal with the challenges and harsh circumstances they face together during their juvenile boot camp experiences.

In addition to the barracks, uniforms and the lifestyle of a boot camp for teenagers, other similarities to the military boot camps are the physical discipline and the daily routine. The young people going through a boot camp experience wear uniforms, learn to march and participate in rigorous physical training and challenges every day they are going through their training.

Some Important Differences

One big difference between a military boot camp and a juvenile boor camp is the duration. While most military programs run from six to twelve weeks, it is not uncommon for a boot camp for teenagers to last as long as two to six months in duration. Both types of boot camps include classroom experiences with the physical training that is the trademark of a boot camp lifestyle. But the focus of a juvenile boot camp will be either on academics during the class times or on the psychological issues that must be confronted by troubled teenagers to affect the turn around in their lives that they came to camp to achieve.

Probably the biggest difference between a military and a juvenile boot camp is the objective. Juvenile boot camps are not preparing soldiers for battle. The physical training is designed to help jolt the youth out of their existing lifestyles and impose a new lifestyle of discipline and achievement. The harsh leadership style of drill sergeants is used to introduce problematic teenagers to an authority that they cannot avoid and that must be satisfied so that the youth come to understand how to treat authority and how to stave to live well in an institutional setting.

The drill sergeants and the rest of the staff at boot camps for teenagers are trained and focused on getting through to troubled teenagers and turning their lives around. The lifestyle at a boot camp is not about drill sergeants and it is certainly not punishment for punishment sake. It is about rehabilitation and sending home a teenager that is changed from the inside out and ready take on life’s challenges and become a winner.

Here are additional resources you might be interested in:

A Day in the Life of a Teenager in Boot Camp

Are Boot Camps for Teenagers the Right Solution?

The Lessons That Are Learned at a Teen Boot Camp