The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Boot Camps

Some parents of troubled teenagers may find juvenile boot camps appealing for several reasons. The idea that their child will quickly and completely reform in a 6-8 week program to a responsible youth in place of the behavioral issue they were experiencing is very attractive. The shorter time period may also promote a better financial footing in place of year round boarding schools for troubled teens. Boot camp can be a good alternative for some situations, however parents should consider if a teen boot camp is the best placement for their child as this treatment option may not work as expected.

The Good

Boot camps help troubled boys and girls gain self-control and respect for authority through structure and discipline. Having a set daily schedule with rigid rules can promote responsibility for some teens. In addition other programs for troubled youth do not offer the physical training while reforming. The physical aspect helps gain confidence in one’s self. Boot camps may even be able to help avoid the juvenile justice system in some cases and have been proven to work to keep a percentage of youths away from criminal associations.

The Bad

Boot camps for delinquents aren’t therapeutic programs and don’t deal with underlying emotional problems. Boot camps aren’t preferred for perceived “bad kids” with depression, anxiety, substance abuse or self-mutilation as the program has not shown any long term success and may make the emotional problem worst upon return. Most troubled teens will have some type of emotional problem in conjunction with their acting out. Therapy will not be address in a boot camp setting.

The Ugly

In a fraction of boot camps there have been cases where children have suffered physical injury or even death. Two separate such cases include the death of a 14 year old boy in Florida and another of the same age in Utah. The medical examiner ruled in the Florida case that the boy died of internal bleeding while family believes he was beaten. While in the Utah case the overweight child was made to participate in a day long hike and two instructors were brought up on charges of homicide.

Parents looking for help for their troubled teens should consider all options such as therapeutic boarding schools, wilderness programs, and residential treatment centers before deciding if a boot camp is right for their child. If a child were to have a simple behavior problem such as lack of respect without any other issues a juvenile boot camp might be considered.