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7 Reasons Why Boot Camps for Troubled Teens Aren’t a Good Idea

teen becoming more troubled

Is your teen becoming more and more troubled


Is your teen becoming more and more troubled?

As a parent, you may have recognized the signs long ago. But, it may have taken you time to decide if you really needed to do something about it. If you’re reading this, it’s time: you’re ready to take action. 

For many parents, their first thought for helping their rebellious teen may be about boot camp. You may have even asked yourself the same one: Is a boot camp for my child the best option?

Searching the Internet, you’ll find hundreds of treatment programs. It’s overwhelming and hard to know which might be the most helpful for your son or daughter. We’re here to explain why boot camps for troubled teens—which may have been your initial thought—are not the best idea for your child. There are better alternatives to get your teen more effective help.

Here’s why:

 1.  Military-style boot camps for troubled teens aren’t that effective.

In the 1980s and 90s, juvenile boot camps became a popular “last resort” for parents who didn’t know what to do with their troubled teen. The idea of a military-style boot camp may seem like the right environment for kids who need an intervention, but research studies reveal teen boot camps are not that effective. With shock treatments and behavior modification techniques, teen boot camps can do more harm than good.

2.  Scare tactics don’t stick.

Military-like boot camps use scare tactics and threatening language to keep kids in-line. While your child may stay focused when someone is yelling in their face, once the fear of punishment is gone (i.e. once boot camp ends), he or she may come home and fall into old patterns. Other programs exist that utilize positive discipline, logical consequences, and reward systems, which contribute to his or her overall growth and lasting maturity. 

3.  Your child doesn’t need push-ups, they need discipline.

There’s a difference between punishment and discipline. Think of punishment like a penalty. In punishment, children “pay” for a mistake. Boot camps focus on punishment. Discipline, on the other hand, teaches children new skills, like how to manage behavior, solve problems, and deal with emotions. As a desperate and frustrated parent, you may think your child should “pay” for their actions, but healthy discipline will go a lot further in the end. Seek out a program that focuses on discipline instead of punishment tactics.

4.  There’s no need to crowd your child out.

State-sponsored boot camps, which are boot camps for teenagers that are paid for by the state, are often overcrowded. The teens enrolled in these may be extremely tough or may be required to be there for committing serious and sometimes violent crimes. While it may seem affordable, this may not be the best environment for your child.

5.  Consider learning and knowledge instead. 

Is there anything that does capture your child’s mind and attention now? Programs focused on growing social skills, setting goals, resisting peer pressure, and solving problems will keep your kid out of trouble even after the program is complete. Help connect your child to a program that teaches a framework they can lean on for the rest of their life.

6.  Your child is unique. Find a treatment that matches who your child is.

Not all treatment programs are one-size-fits-all. Your child may not belong in a treatment program focused on at-risk behavior like drinking, drug use, or violence if they’re showing signs of negative, self-destructive behavior, defiance at school, or mood swings. It’s overwhelming to know what might be most useful for your son or daughter by doing a Google search. It’s wise to weigh your options. We’re here to help point you in the right direction.

7.  There are other options to help your teenage child.

Teenage boot camps aren’t the only choice. Other options exist! Nowadays, there are holistic, effective, and proven options like wilderness therapy, residential treatment centers, and therapeutic boarding schools. (Note: take this quiz to see if a wilderness program is right for your child.)

As a parent, there’s no doubt you want to make sure you’re placing your child in the right therapeutic program. Choosing the wrong one could lead to heartache, long-term emotional stress, and preventable financial burden.

If you’re ready to help your teen, contact us. We offer a free phone consultation with one of our family advocates who will help you wade through all of the information (and misinformation!) that’s out there. Remember, you’re not alone. We’ve helped thousands of parents who have been in your shoes before. They’ve coped with these same kinds of experiences and you can, too.


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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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