For years, the most drastic form of punishment that a parent might consider was to “send the child of to military school”. This concept has been brought up to date with the advent of boot camps for kids. These boot camps use military style training to impose discipline and structure into the life of a youngster with the goal of correcting bad behavior. There is no question that if the right kind of youth is sent to a boot camp setting, the harsh discipline and training can do him or her a lot of good. But parents must think long and hard about whether they are considering a boot camp for their teenager for the right reasons.
Not a Substitute for Good Parenting
It is a normal part of being a parent to correct naughty behavior. Children make mistakes and sometimes they intentionally do the wrong thing to see how mom and dad will respond. Being a parent calls for the adults to use a combination of loving instruction, guidance, training and discipline. Most child psychologists agree that children who live in homes where there are an established set of rules and those rules are enforced are happier because they know where the boundaries are and those boundaries can be trusted not to change.
But children will test the boundaries every so often. Teenagers will test them frequently. As such, some disobedience and unacceptable behavior is normal in any young person. We cannot and should not send every child who breaks a rule to a boot camp for kids. Those camps are not designed for the average child who breaks the rules from time to time but does not demonstrate serious emotional or social problems. In short, boot camps for kids should never be used as a substitute for good parenting.
Understand Your Teenager Before, Not After Boot Camp
If your teenager is involved in unacceptable behavior that goes beyond simple youthful disobedience or teenage rebellion, he or she is acting out for a reason. If the reason for substance abuse, retiring from family or becoming antisocial at school stems from depression, anxiety or psychological problems, a teen boot camp will not be the kind of environment that will help address the root causes of your son or daughter’s problem.
The only way to completely “cure” inappropriate behavior that stems from inner emotional or psychological turmoil is to address the cause. The acting out is the symptom of deeper pain that will not go away simply because the child is forced to curtail being disobedient because of a boot camp experience. In fact, forcing a troubled teen that needs psychological help into a rigid, harsh and military style boot camp experience will only wound the youngster further and deepen the psychological problems that he or she is experiencing.
Parents are not always equipped to delve into the psychology of the adolescent mind. But it is still an essential step before considering boot camps for kids to have your teenager evaluated by a qualified psychologist who can find out the real reasons for the bad behavior or poor performance at school and in social situations. The youngster’s counselors and analysts can then recommend a program of therapy and supportive activities that will address the cause of the depression and provide a supportive and affirming path to recovery to full mental health.
That might take more time and patience than “shipping the child off” to a teen boot camp. But the end result will be much more effective because the solution was customized to the teen rather than forcing the teenager into a mold that was not right for him or her.
A Last Resort
Sending your troubled teenager to a boot camp for kids should be a last resort. Above all, it should never be used as a threat. Boot camps for kids are too extreme to be included as a possible way to “get back” at a child who has made you angry or even to be used as a form of punishment for doing something wrong. If the idea of sending a child away to boot camp is thrown around as a threat to try to scare the young person into better behavior, that hurts the chances of a boot camp being effective if you do go down that road in the future.
If the time comes that your child’s counselors and psychologist agree that a boot camp experience is the right choice for your teenager, the child should not feel like he or she is being “sent away”. That impression gives the youngster the feeling that they are being cast from the home and rejected by the very people that the teenager looks to for love and support.
If you do turn to a boot camp for kids as a last resort to correct the behavior of a troubled teen, the teenager should understand that this is being done to help him or her and that you will be there with open arms to receive the child back when they come home from boot camp. This feeling of support from family will empower the youngster to try to succeed in the boot camp experience and to take away from it the real value it has to offer.
The Right Reasons
The right reason for sending a troubled teenager to a boot camp for kids is to keep a young person who is in serious trouble from descending any further into a downward spiral of problems with the law and crime. Often a court will order a boot camp for kids as an alternative to sending a youth to juvenile detention or jail. If the boot camp introduces harsh discipline and control to a life that is out of control, that is a perfect use of the boot camp concept.
Sometimes juveniles who act out in the form of drug abuse or criminal behavior are in need of structure that they find in gangs. A boot camp program will put that youngster into challenges that are beyond his or her ability to cope so that the youth must learn to depend on the leadership of the camp and on each other to survive and succeed. The outcome is a teenager who turned to criminal activity will learn to respect and admire the tough program that they encounter at a boot camp setting. Often a boot camp experience will lead to a career in the military which is far more acceptable than a career in crime.
There is a niche in the range of options to addressing youthful misbehavior for the boot camp solution. But as parents, it is important to understand the real causes of your teenager’s problems and then research the many options that you can take advantage of to turn that young person’s life around. Then and only then will boot camp for kids truly help your teenager because you took the time to make sure it is the right program at the right time in the life of your teenager.
Here are additional resources you might be interested in:
Teen Boot Camps for At-Risk Kids
Are Boot Camps for Teenagers the Right Solution?