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Are Boot Camps for Teenagers the Right Solution?

When a teenager becomes moody, withdrawn or defiant, the one thing parents want is answers. But those answers are often in short supply, particularly from the teenager. He or she either doesn’t know why those feelings of anger, resentment and rebellion are so strong or they are not interested in telling their parents what the problem is. That is why it is easy for parents to turn to other resource to find out how to “fix” a kid who used to be so happy and fun loving but who has changed for the worse.

There are a number of solutions that parents can consider for finding help with a rebellious or defiant teenage son or daughter.  One solution that has been effective for some families is to send a child to a juvenile boot camp to give that child a “jump start” and to alert him or her that the choices they are making and the route in life that he or she is going down are wrong and headed for disaster.

There is no question that sending your child to a boot camp for teenagers is a drastic move. A boot camp experience in your child’s life can have a dramatic effect on his or her personality. The time in that boot camp will be difficult and it will test the teenager’s ability to respond to pressure and to live through a very harsh life for quite some time. So the first question any parent must ask is whether something as dramatic as a boot camp for teenagers is the right solution for the problem you are having with your youngster.

Levels of Severity

For a lot of good reasons, parents should not jump to the decision to send a teenager to a juvenile boot camp too quickly. There is no easy or universal answer to whether boot camps for teenagers is the right solution for your particular child. For youth who are in trouble with the law and who are acting out so severely that they are missing school, have been expelled or are on the verge of going into a downward spiral that could ruin their lives, juvenile boot camps are often a life saver. But there are levels of severity in how troubled a teenager is and what method should be used to help the youngster come out of their withdrawn or defiant state of mind.

Much of the disobedience, the “sassiness” and the other character traits of teenagers that drive parents crazy are common to almost all teenagers. Just because your teenager talks back more than when he or she was a child or is argumentative, that is not necessarily an indication that your offspring should be “sent away” to a drastic solution such as a boot camp for teenagers.

A juvenile boot camp will take your teenager out of your home for anywhere from a several weeks to as long as six months or longer.  While there, your child will go through a dramatic change inside and out. Whether your son or daughter responds well or badly to the boot camp experience, you will get back a completely different kind of kid than you sent to a juvenile boot camp. Along with a significant change to your child and to the relationship you have with him or her, it is important to note that juvenile boot camps are often quite expensive. For these reasons, sending a teenager to a juvenile boot camp should be a decision that is not made in haste.

Right for Some is Wrong for Others

Sometimes the idea to take advantage of a boot camp for teenagers to correct the behavior and the attitudes of a troubled teenager comes from a positive report of the good a juvenile boot camp did for another youth. But parents should be careful not to come to a snap decision that a boot camp experience will be the right solution for their adolescent as well. A boot camp is an excellent solution for many troubled youth. But, depending on the nature of the teenager’s emotional or mental problems, a boot camp solution could be a disaster for one child even though it was the perfect answer for behavior problems of the kid next door.

The boot camp experience that includes aggressive physical activity, loud and pushy drill sergeants and uncompromising insistence on conformity in the middle of nearly impossible challenges are perfect for some teenagers who thrive on the challenge. But for youth who are going through serious emotional problems or struggling with self esteem issues, a boot camp environment could be all wrong.

Its smart to discuss your thoughts about enrolling your troubled teenager in a juvenile boot camp with your son or daughter’s school counselors, psychologist or the trusted leaders he or she knows at church or in a youth organization like Boy Scouts or Band at school. These mentors will be able to evaluate the types of maturity struggles an individual youth is going through and give parents an insightful opinion about whether a harsh juvenile boot camp experience is right for the child.

No Substitute for Good Parenting

If the first thought you had of taking your troubled teenager to a juvenile boot camp was made out of haste and frustration with the child, take some time to evaluate this decision carefully. Do not make this decision out of the heat of the moment or as a reaction to a fight with your teenager or the after witnessing an emotional tantrum by the child. It is far better to have your son or daughter go spend a day or so at a friend or relatives home to give you time to get perspective on the problems you are having with the youth than to make a decision without thinking it through.

Every parent has to take time to understand what is going on inside the mind and emotions of a troubled teenager. It is unwise to let a juvenile boot camp take the place of simple good parenting that is your job to provide to your child. It could be that taking an evening to talk to your son or daughter or taking him or her camping or on an adventure one on one could open the doors of communication and give you a chance to try to resolve the youngster’s issues without going to the expense and the extremes of sending the child off to a boot camp situation.

Then, when you have done all you can to resolve the problem using good parenting skills and tapping the resources of your teenager’s mentors and counselors, if it still seems like giving your teenage son or daughter a boot camp experience is a good solution, you can move forward with greater confidence. And because you took the time to be a good parent, you will have a good chance of seeing a teenager return from juvenile boot camp with a new and positive attitude and an ambition to become a productive member of society. Then you will be able to pat yourself on the back that you made a good decision in providing the juvenile boot camp experience to your troubled teenage child.

Here are additional resources you might be interested in:

The Lessons That Are Learned at a Teen Boot Camp

Are Teen Boot Camps Effective?

Do you believe your child needs help, does he or she need "a lesson" or "to get some discipline"?
Boot Camps for Troubled Teens Are Not the Answer.
We DO NOT endorse teen boot camps because they were proven ineffective and dangerous. Learn More!

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