Today you can find anything you need online. Many parents search Google looking for “the best teen boot camp” or “where can I send my troubled teen.” The search results are a series of ads offering to help you fix your child with a short-term troubled teen program. But I ask you, is that really what your child needs?
In social media groups, we read parents’ posts about having an “out of control teen” and struggling to control their teenagers. Some of these posts are horrid and sad. In some, you can sense the desperation. While other parents who’ve been there offer advice and recommendations for what you should do or not do.
What is Really Going on With Your Misbehaving Teenager?
The teenage years are confusing and complicated for any child. Puberty causes many changes that cause stress. As your child attempts to assert his independence and begin to test boundaries, they cause you more stress.
We are all on edge. No one right now (or ever) needs to deal with a child’s bad attitude, disrespect, or angry outbursts. We, as parents, attempt to control our child’s behavior and fail! Instead, boom–a bad situation becomes explosive.
What are these children experiencing in this not so normal times: rage, anger, frustration, and outright rebellion. While many become outspoken and outright rebel, others internalize and withdraw, or use substances. Many refuse to accept responsibility for their actions and ignore the rules and boundaries you’ve set. As a parent, you have valid reasons to be concerned.
That concern is a good thing, but it should not translate to “my kid needs a boot camp.”
Why Parents Think A Boot Camp is the “Fix” for a “bad teen.”
In the US, the boot camp concept is a quick go-to solution. We have weight loss boot camps, coding boot camps, fitness boot camps, finance boot camps, even job skill boot camps. These boot camps are short, “easy to follow” immersion programs that help us change behavior or learn new skills. Is there such a thing for a teenager? The answer is yes AND no.
If you find yourself in this situation, you need to acknowledge that there is more going on. Examine the situation:
- Is this atypical behavior, or is it a more chronic behavioral issue?
- When did you first notice these changes?
- Do you know the triggers?
- Is your teen going through a typical teenage rebellion, which results in him refusing to cooperate or conform?
- If the situation is ignored today, will it cause long-term harm?
- How long has this been going on?
- What have you tried already, and why did it fail?
- Are these issues escalating?
- For instance, was your child vaping, and now you suspect he is using other drugs?
- Was she a finicky eater, and now you suspect that there is an eating disorder?
- Did he go from being angry and rebellious to having an explosive temper that scares you?
We are a quick-fix society. A quick immersion program is often a good thing except when it comes to teenager’s misbehaving. Teen boot camps are not the answer. In fact, it has been proven than a teen boot camp will cause more harm than good.
Teen behaviors and emotional issues that have developed over time cannot be changed or fixed in a six-week boot camp program.
Ever wonder what a teen boot camp is like? Thinking it can work, think about this:
- How would you respond to a stranger yelling at you?
- What if you were being coerced into doing a thousand jumping jacks?
- How about if you were force-fed mush or your food intake was restricted?
- Would being absolutely miserable for six weeks make you comply?
- Would you comply to get through it? Most likely!
- Will public humiliation or shaming fix you?
- Will it get to the root issue that is causing you to act out? Unlikely! How would you feel towards the people that put you in that situation?
Boot camps are a desperate measure that will hurt you and your family. It won’t fix what is broken, it won’t make your lives better. Google it, you’ll read all the horror stories.
If your teenager is having difficulties coping with what’s happening in their world, he or she needs counseling. You can make it better! Contact their pediatrician. Go to your county services pages. Search online for a therapist who specializes in working with teens.
Most health insurance, including Medicaid, will cover mental health and behavioral health services. You are on the right track, your child needs help but does not need a boot camp.
5 Facts You Must Know Before You Find Help for Your Out of Control Teen
Are your child’s problems the result of something else? Could your teenager have mental health problems or an emotional disturbance?
- The first signs of these conditions appear during adolescence. Unfortunately, it is easier for the symptoms to be misinterpreted as rebellion and disobedience. While in fact, your teen is exhibiting abnormal patterns that require medical attention.
- On average, it takes 10-years from when signs first appear until proper medical treatment.
- Children with serious mental illness or other emotional problems are less likely to finish high school or go on to college.
- Vaping, alcohol, and drug use or abuse are often used to treat their anxiety or escape their situation. In recent years, we’ve seen an increase in online or technology addiction: video games, internet, cellphones.
- A child that is diagnosed with one condition has a higher risk of having a second condition. An example of this is anxiety and depression, ADHD and ODD, depression, and alcoholism. Dual conditions are referred to as co-morbidity or co-morbid conditions. One thing leads to another or when there is more than one diagnosis.
- In 2017 the federal government began covering substance abuse treatment, including inpatient services. Medicaid also pays for online therapy (telehealth), some group therapy, and psychological treatment.
If you need information on how to get help for your child, we recommend visiting your state’s children and family website.
You can search by “state-name mental health services for children” or “state name children’s behavioral health.”
When to Seek a Residential Treatment Program
Has your child been under psychiatric care? If your child has not improved and you believe that he or she will benefit from intensive therapeutic help, consider a private boarding school or a residential treatment center. Most of these programs are not covered by health insurance and seldom by Medicaid.
Residential treatment programs remove the child from the troubled atmosphere. Eliminates the negative influences and places him in a controlled environment. Removing the emotional triggers, thereby making him more receptive to change.
Residential treatment programs are a much better way to help a teen who has substance abuse issues. It also works well because there are therapists available and other children that have similar experiences.
To learn more about these programs, search for residential treatment centers, specialty boarding schools like faith-based schools, academic programs, and therapeutic schools.
Low-level outpatient therapy could also do the trick with a teenager whose issues are not as severe.