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What Is Boot Camp For Kids?

Posted by Teen Risk Resource Center

Boot camp often has a negative connotation, but programs that focus on positive reinforcement can be a huge help. Navigating through challenging behaviors that occur during the late childhood and teen years can be difficult for parents. Many times, parents discover that basic discipline strategies are no longer working, and their child is beginning to exhibit behaviors that could cause long-term damage to their health and relationships.


Boot camp can provide an opportunity for teens to learn self-discipline and how to manage their mental health


Age ranges served

Generally, teenagers between the ages of 12-17 are best served at boot camp for kids; however, programs designed for children as young as 9 are being developed so that problem behaviors can be corrected even earlier.


A typical day at camp

At a boot camp for kids, an average day begins early in the morning with each camper participating in a strict military-style routine. Individual candidates are provided with chores to carry out such as kitchen or laundry duty, which helps to develop a sense of responsibility. Campers are expected to address their drill instructors with respect and arrive on time for activities such as calisthenics and academics.


Behaviors helped by boot camp

Kids who display extreme aggression and defiance of authority are the most likely to experience a complete turnaround in their behavior after they are placed under the strict guidance of drill instructors. Kids who are in trouble with the law, struggle with addiction or who run away from home can all be helped by a stay at boot camp. Many boot camps are also equipped with trained staff who can assist with children who have autism, Asperger’s and other behavioral disorders that may also play a role in their ability to follow rules.


Therapies offered

In boot camp, one of the most effective therapies offered is a strict routine in which children are forced to regulate their behavior. In addition to the military-style regimen, individual and group counseling may be offered to help each teen work through their responses to stressful situations. If a student is in a long-term program, then academic classes will be offered to help a child stay on track with their education. Military drills and physical challenges provide an outlet for teenage aggression while helping to teach teamwork. Throughout each of these therapies, positive self-esteem is reinforced along with the concept that respecting authority and working well with others is rewarded.


Average length of stay

The length of stay at a boot camps for kids will vary according to the teen’s specific needs and the program. Short term boot camps last approximately six to eight weeks, which is viewed as the shortest length of time needed to make a significant difference for severely out-of-control behavior. Longer boot camps that last throughout a summer or school semester are also available for kids who do not show improvement in traditional programs. Weekend camps are another way to shock a teen who is merely heading in the wrong direction to get back on track. However, at Teen Risk Resource Center, we recommend only long-term programs because those are the ones with the highest success rates.


When traditional methods are not working to correct the problem behavior, boot camp may be the answer. In addition to expecting a child to comply with a strict and regular routine, therapies are offered that can help address defiant behavior at its source. If you have been struggling with a teenager who is out-of-control, then boot camp can provide the necessary wake-up call that will spur your teen into actively correcting their behavior.