For a parent, the thought of putting your teenager in a situation of extreme stress and harsh discipline creates mixed feelings. The rise in popularity of boot camps for teenagers is that kind of situation that many parents do opt to try for their troubled teen. On one hand, if such an experience can help change the youngster into a responsible and compliant person, it might be worth it. But the potential that a stay at a juvenile boot camp could produce negative results or even hurt their son or daughter is something that every parent has to deal with before dropping the youngster off at camp.
To be fair, far more families and teenagers that take advantage of what juvenile boot camps have to offer benefit from the experience. Many lives have been changed for the better where a teenager was headed down a bad path that was destined to result in a life of crime, drug abuse or worse. When kids come out of a juvenile boot camp experience with a new lease on life and a the resolve and self confidence to go out in the world and make something of themselves, that is nothing short of a miracle. And it is the kind of miracle that boot camps for teenagers repeat for hundreds of kids each year.
But to be honest, juvenile boot camps do have their share of failures as well. Some amount of controversy has sprung up around teenage boot camps. The methods used at a boot camp are extreme, harsh and difficult for the kids. And there have been some tragic situations that have occurred in some of the most difficult juvenile boot camps including accidents and even on rare occasions some deaths and that has thrown a bad light on the entire discipline. These controversies that hurt many good boot camp operations that have not had those kinds of problems.
The life in a juvenile boot camp is often strict, difficult and unrelenting. Attendees rise early and are pushed to perform difficult physical tasks throughout the day until their exhausted heads lay down for short night of sleep. It is not uncommon for a teenager in a boot camp to have to run five miles before breakfast and perform hundreds of push-ups and other demanding physical challenges each day. And a boot camp stay can go on for weeks or months of nonstop pressure and discipline.
The first risk to consider is quite simply, can your son or daughter take this kind of pressure and physical effort? For those who fall short, they face humiliation and mocking from the other teenagers and verbal abuse from boot camp drill sergeants. For a youth who is already in a delicate emotional or mental condition, it is possible for an emotional breakdown to occur. To be sent home in that condition after “washing out” of a juvenile boot camp does not result in the life changing turn around that parents are hoping for when they send kids to a juvenile boot camp.
Another risk that boot camps for teenager prefer not to advertise is the percentage of kids who do finish the boot camp program but return to their “civilian” lives only to return to their former lifestyle of rebellion and acting out against authorities. There are a percentage of youth who simply put out the effort to “get through” the boot camp demands and then they relapse when they get out.
For kids who are forced into a boot camp stay by the courts or who resent their parents “dumping” them into a boot camp because the parents are out of ideas of how to cope with such a child, that resentment can grow and become deep and lasting during the difficult weeks at boot camp. The result is a teenager who is more uncommunicative and rebellious after the boot camp is over.
The Right Medicine for the Illness
The lesson to be learned from the controversies that swirl around boot camps for teenagers is that they are not for every troubled kid. For teenagers who are in trouble with the law because they are well on their way to becoming hardened criminals, juvenile boot camps can report an admirable level of success. Tough kids who admire strength and challenge often respond very well to the demands of a boot camp setting. It is exciting to see a kid who was close to becoming an active gang leader come out of a teenage boot camp to use his or her leadership skills for good rather than to be a burden on his or her parents and on society.
The typical harsh and military style boot camps for teenagers are not the only resource parents have to seek help for a troubled youngster. There are other types of camps and retreats that focus on therapy and opening the lines of communications to teenagers who are withdrawn, going through emotional problems or drug addiction issues. So if you have been “scared off” by the news stories of big problems in juvenile boot camps, look a little closer.
The problems you are hearing about may be coming from boot camps that were not well run or from boot camps for teenagers that were far too difficult for those particular young people. By getting the right medicine for the illness that is affecting your child, you can find a boot camp or youth retreat that can deliver the right kind of help for what is causing your teenager to struggle in school at home and in life.
Here are additional resources you might be interested in:
Can a Boot Camp for Teenagers Fix Your Troubled Child?