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What is the Purpose of Juvenile Boot Camps?

parent with troubled teenagerWhen parents have a troubled teenager in the home, they will take all the help they can get. Small wonder that books and websites about parenting teenagers are always very popular. Teenagers are unique humans and their behavior often defies the logic that adults understand. So when you have a particularly defiant, troublesome or withdrawn teenager in the home, there comes a time when you look for a solution outside of the normal methods parents use to cope with the adolescent years.

There are a lot of ways to help a youth get through those tough teenage years. Many parents find that getting kids involved in sports, in a youth organization like the Boy or Girl Scouts or in a church group provides them with mentoring that will help a teenager focus and develop strong values as they approach adulthood. Among the many options that parents can consider for turning around a teenager who seems to be going down the wrong path in life is to sign the teenager up to spend some time at a juvenile boot camp. But before you do that, it is wise to understand what boot camps for teenagers are for to evaluate whether this is a good option to help get your youngster under control.

Hard Core Intervention for Troubled Teenagers

The purpose of juvenile boot camps is to provide a way to divert very troubled kids to a hard core rehabilitation facility to give the penal system an option rather than sending a violent teenager or one who is in trouble with the law in some other way to jail. The environment and goals of a boot camp for teenagers is a mixture of the disciplinary styles used in juvenile detention, at a federal or state prison and a military boot camp. As such, these camps are tough, difficult, harsh and very strict in the enforcement of the rules of the boot camp.

The juvenile boot camp system was created to stand between the court system and juvenile detention and prison for a teenager who is in serious trouble with the law. The boot camp for teenagers option gives judges a way to divert troubled youth to a tough rehabilitation facility that could turn that teenager around and return him or her to society. The idea is to use military-style discipline to “break” a tough criminal teenager and then remold that kid into a responsible citizen.

A juvenile boot camp differs from juvenile detention or prison because the primary purpose of detention is to keep violent or crime prone individuals out of society. Rehabilitation is part of the prison system but it is not the first priority the way it is at a juvenile boot camp. At a juvenile boot camp, troubled teenagers do not just sit in their cells and wait out their sentences. They are engaged in strenuous exercises and very challenging physical activities from the second they are rolled out of bed before dawn until they return exhausted to their bunks that night.

A juvenile boot camp differs from a military boot camp in that the objective of a military program is to create soldiers and to hammer those recruits into battle-ready condition. But like the military version of boot camps, inmates at juvenile boot camps are under the harsh and uncompromising authority of a loud and demanding drill sergeant who does not accept excuses and who is just as tough or tougher than any kid who comes to his camp.

Defiance Replaced by Self Esteem and Teamwork

As difficult as the programs are at a juvenile boot camp, there is some basic psychology at work in putting troubled youth into such a hard and uncompromising camp situation. First of all, youth who have turned away from conventional institutions and toward gang life or a life of crime often have little respect or regard for the rules of society including the law of the land. At a juvenile boot camp, the rules are uncompromising and to break them means immediate and harsh punishment. There is no “getting out” of punishment. It is not concerned about whether it is “fair” and these troubled youth cannot appeal, intimidate or call in sick for a day of work at a boot camp for teenagers.

Boot camps for teenagers are not the same as two week youth retreats or summer camps that parents send their kids to once a year. The duration of a typical juvenile boot camp can last anywhere from six weeks to six months or longer. That long duration in nonstop rigorous activity and discipline results in a feeling that many of these youth have never felt before.

That feeling is self respect and self esteem. By the time troubled youth get into their last few weeks at a juvenile youth camp, they will become completely different kinds of people. They will be more physically fit and able to satisfy the very demanding requirements of the camp and of their drill sergeants. When those teenagers finally hear the words, “well done” from that tough leadership that they hated at first, the feeling of accomplishment is transformational.

Along with a new sense of self worth, teenagers who get through a juvenile boot camp program will develop relationships and a sense of community that will be a revelation to them as well. The “squadrons” of teenagers who come to a boot camp will be strangers at first. But because they will only be able to get through a day of impossible demands by depending on each other, they will become a unit and the friendships that will be forged in these “fox holes” will be just as long lasting and influential on teenagers coming out of boot camp as those long lasting friendship military people know after enduring battle together.

Juvenile boot camps are not for kids who just need focus and some simple mentoring. If your teen can benefit from one of the many other options that are available to parents to turn a kid around, it is wise not to send them to a boot camp for teenagers. But many juvenile boot camps are open to registration without the recommendation of juvenile court. If you have a teenager who is impossible to work with and who is going down a path that will end in crime, drug abuse or worse, it may be worthwhile to investigate sending that troubled teenager to a juvenile boot camp. These unique institutions have turned around a lot of young lives so they just might do the same for your troubled son or daughter.

Here are additional resources you might be interested in:

What to Expect in Teen Boot Camps

Are Boot Camps for Teenagers the Right Solution?

The Lessons That Are Learned at a Teen Boot Camp

A Day in the Life of a Teenager in Boot Camp

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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