1. Parenting
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Boot Camps for Troubled Teens: The Pros and Cons

What You Need to Know About This Option for Troubled Teens


Mother and daughter fighting
Design Pics/Don Hammond/Getty Images
Quick Links: Treatment Programs for Troubled Teens | Quiz: Is Your Teen At-Risk?

When searching the options for helping a troubled teen you'll come across the term teen boot camp or boot camps for teens. This controversial option is an appropriate choice for some teens but can potentially worsen problems for others. 

What You Need to Know About Teen Boot Camps

Similar to boot camps for the military teen boot camps include staff with a drill sergeant mentality, living in barracks and the enforcement of military-like discipline. There is a lot of time spent doing physical activity to include exercising and marching. Parents are often attracted to these programs hoping that a tough, disciplined setting will finally straighten their kid out. 

The concept of boot camps for teens started as an alternative to jail for teenagers who had committed crimes and most state run programs continue to serve this population. There are now privately run boot camps that use the same military structure and focus on intense physical conditioning.

The Pros and Cons of Teen Boot Camps

The pros:

The biggest advantage is that boot camps do teach self-control, responsibility and respect for authority. There are some troubled teens who will benefit from the intense structure and discipline, primarily teens involved in illegal activity who are headed for a life of crime without substantial intervention. It’s also an option to consider for an extremely defiant or rebellious teen who hasn’t succeeded in other programs. 

The cons:

The biggest disadvantage is that boot camps really aren’t therapeutic programs and aren’t designed to deal with the underlying emotional or behavioral problems most troubled teens are struggling with. For teens struggling with depression, anxiety, self-harm, drug use, low self-esteem and many other problems this is an extreme option that is most likely going to make their problems worse. 

It is worth noting that many therapeutic programs for teens are advertising they are ‘not boot camps’ - which really isn’t fair to boot camps. These programs have their place but it’s a limited one. Best suited for teens involved in the juvenile justice system or those teens who are headed in that direction.

Quick Links: Treatment Programs for Troubled Teens | Quiz: Is Your Teen At-Risk?

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.