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Teen boot camps: the benefits

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For some troubled teens, teen boot camps have been the much-needed answer to their self-destructive behaviour. When other options like grounding, revoked privileges, detentions, family counseling, one-on-one therapy, even self-help and parenting books yield no decrease in the harmful habits of troubled teens, families have turned towards teen boot camps across Canada as a radical solution.

With little luxury in the barracks, “tough love” attitude from the drill sergeants, and military-style physical conditioning, teen boot camps are often used as disciplinary measures when a troubled teen has committed a particularly offensive act or as a way for parents to make their teen appreciate their home life. The experience is not easy, so before you send your troubled teen to a boot camp, you need to decide if all other options have been exhausted, and that your teen will be able to make it through the grueling demands of the program. Fortunately, it is likely they will. Researchers have found that 75%-95% of teen boot camp participants completed the course, and many displayed improvements in reading and math skills, even found jobs after leaving the boot camp facilities.

In the United States, "troubled teens" has become its own privatized industry, and this includes teen boot camps. In Canada, however, the government pays much closer attention to schools and camps that deal specifically with troubled teens. Therefore, Canadian families can rest assured that those who instruct at teen boot camps across the country are respected professionals who have the training to deal with upset teens that most parents lack. This can also include educators, psychologists, drug counselors, and vocational trainers, who are more and more frequently being added to the staff at teen boot camps as longer-term, more rehabilitative programs become evermore popular. As always however, it is important to ask each program about their philosophy, curriculum and learning, financial aid and accreditations. A useful list of questions to ask is available here.

Teen boot camps: the benefits

The decision to send a child to such an intimidating environment as a teen boot camp must be made carefully, but there are definite benefits that a teen can reap from their experience there:

Their fitness increases
A tangible benefit is an improvement in fitness and health from the physical exercises a teen must complete with the rest of the group and the nutritional food they’re given.

They can escape their harmful environment
Teen boot camps are drug-and-alcohol free zones, and the complete removal of these dangerous temptations can often cut harmful habits permanently. Also, without the negative influences of friends or significant others a troubled teen may have acquired no longer wield control over a teen’s behaviour, leaving room for a councilor’s supportive advice.

They develop self-worth and confidence
Teens at boot camp are given many difficult tasks to accomplish, and giving up when the going gets tough is not an option accepted by drill sergeants. Teens are constantly pushed to their limits, far beyond what they ever thought they could accomplish. The completion of daily tasks, culminating in finishing the entire program, results in newfound feelings of pride and self-respect, which often leads to higher motivation to reflect on their passions and feelings, set goals for their future, and make wiser choices in their home life. The process of accepting and facing their past mistakes, as is essential in the success of a teen boot camp, is also helpful in a teen moving forward in their life post-camp.

They learn mutual respect
While a troubled teen may be self-centred at home, teen boot camp forces them to work in a team setting. This new environment not only helps forge lasting friendships, it lets the participants know they are not alone in their problems. They learn to build trust and rely on others to supplement their weaknesses, which is something many troubled teens find difficult. But most importantly they learn how their actions affect those around them, and appreciate the feelings of others.

They gain a new perspective
Being catapulted so far out of their comfort zone at a boot camp makes a teen realize what they love about being at home. They recognize the love of their family, and the privilege they have to live with freedom and independent thought. At a teen boot camp, teens can reflect on their current situations from a new perspective, which can lead to a much happier, more appreciative family life at home.


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