7 Tips For Choosing The Right Boot Camp For Teens


During teenage years, children expect more freedom, and most parents do not mind giving them space. But sometimes, this freedom can go out of bounds, and teenagers might need help. Boot camps for teens may help in such cases. In most cases, at-risk youth are sent to private teen boot camps to remedy an undesirable behavior. Whether it is substance abuse, anger, authority defiance, academic underachievement, or rule-breaking, there is likely a deeper, underlying emotional issue that needs to be addressed. When parents have exhausted their resources and don’t know where to turn, interventions and treatment methods such as a boot camp for teens may help their struggling child.

When parents have exhausted their resources and don’t know where to turn, treatment methods such as a boot camp for teens may help their struggling child.

Do Teen Boot Camps Work?

While teen boot camps effectively build strength and discipline, they typically do not have a therapeutic model to address the underlying issues behind teen defiance and rebellion. The goal of these programs for troubled teens is centered on training teens to take ownership of their choices. However, they don’t punish teens, a style of discipline that was so prevalent in the past. Instead, the teen is encouraged to make positive choices through constructive skill-building. The teen boot camps blend the characteristics of boarding schools and wilderness programsiXA combination of therapy and challenging experiences in an outdoor environment for young adults suffering from behavioral issues . Worn-out and stressed-out parents at their wit’s end may resort to these rehabilitation programs to help their children. They teach teens to acquire healthy lifestyle habits essential for the prevention of behavioral issues in the future.

Types Of Boot Camps For Teens

Various boot camps for teens are available to cater to your child’s specific needs (1)

  • Boot camps for the mind

These boot camps help children to succeed academically further. Also, they help improve their ability to focus better on their goals.

  • Boot camps for the soul

These boot camps aiming at the soul are religious boot camps. They provide teenagers with the diversion required for stabilizing their minds and nurturing their spiritual lives through meditation and prayers.

  • Boot camps for body

Boot camps can be beneficial for teens when it comes to teaching physical fitness. Drills, adventurous treks, exercises, and athletics activities are an integral part of boot camps that make teens fit and confident.

  • Military-style boot camps

Image: IStock

Military-style boot camps help troubled children get back on track. Children who end up in trouble cannot make healthy decisions during this phase. They need to learn how to set goals, resist peer pressure, and solve problems. They also need to learn social skills and involve themselves in hobbies and interests to keep them out of trouble. Military camps also improve their fitness levels.

protip_icon Trivia
The US-based non-profit Humpty Dumpty Institute organizes boot camps for students from across the world to learn about the work of the United Nations (4).

When Should Parents Not Send A Child To Boot Camp?

Teens who display behavioral problems may have mental health issues, such as a conduct disorder, ADHDiXA neurodevelopmental disorder affecting the child’s ability to pay attention, control impulses, and manage energy levels , or oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). Maybe the parents had ignored the warning signs, and the disorder has gotten worse in the teen years. Other teens may have functioned normally during early childhood, only to develop problems later. However, all teens with behavioral and obedience problems may not have serious mental health issues. If the behavioral issue is a mental health problem, it’s best to avoid sending them to an unfamiliar environment.

These behavioral issues might develop from social issues, bullying, substance abuse, hormone changes, or mood disordersiXA group of mental disorders that have an impact on the mood, such as depression such as depression. Some risk factors attributed to the problems might include trauma, physical or sexual abuse,neglected genesiXGenes that have not received as much attention or study as other genes , family history of mood disorders, or mental instability. Also, personality traits, temperaments, lack of impulse control, poor stress management, learning disabilities, and environmental factors may play a role.

There might be various triggers, including parents getting divorced, the sudden death of a parent or loved one, or moving to a new town. Mental health disorders, such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, or borderline personality disorder, are more likely to emerge in such situations.

Teens struggling with the following mental health issues shouldn’t be pushed to join a boot camp:

Image: IStock

  1. Conduct Disorder Teens with conduct disorder will display defiant, hostile, aggressive, and disruptive behaviors. They tend to look for fights and have no regard for social norms. This disorder is more common in males. Failure to address these behaviors may lead to violent behavior and eventual incarceration as they age.
  1. Oppositional Defiant Disorder – ODD is a behavior disorder where teens display angry and hostile behaviors. They have difficulty accepting authority, and they also get frustrated easily. ADHD is a common co-morbid disorderiXPresence of two or more disorders in an individual at the same time .
  1. Substance Abuse – Adolescents involved in substance abuse are at a higher risk of developing a disorder. Many drugs, such as Oxy and Vicodin, are highly addictive and can lead to harder drugsiXA category of illegal or illicit drugs that are considered to be more addictive and harmful than other drugs .
protip_icon Did you know?

It is said that boot camps first emerged to tackle crimes committed by youth.

Tips For Choosing The Right Boot Camp

Image: IStock

Here are some key factors to consider when choosing the right boot camp for your adolescents.

  1. Formal evaluation: A credible therapy program should evaluate its clients upon admission. Routine formal evaluations of the effectiveness of the treatment path should be conducted periodically to facilitate successful treatment.
  1. Adequate expert supervision and evaluation: With the help of guided supervision of a licensed mental health practitioner or clinical social work therapy program, the participants should have individual or group therapy sessions to ensure the right treatment is given to the concerned child.
  1. Family involvement for growth: A strong support structure is crucial for successful healing, and family members can be instrumental in providing this support. Therefore, their help and involvement in the healing process are essential. The entire family begins to heal with both teens and parents on the same path. This type of program should work with the family to help them understand each participant’s issues, goals, treatment path, and child’s problems. Involving the family provides a systemic solutioniXAn approach to solve problems by looking at the entire system, and not just parts of it because children do not live in isolation. Negative behavior in children often indicates that their needs are either being met wrongly or not being met at all.
  1. Specialized training in medical ventures: The therapy field guides get trained in CPR, first aid, and receive first responder certification. This training will help prepare the children to face the world with extra exposure in helping others. This will ensure the children better understand the world around them and develop empathy.

Image: IStock

  1. Individualized treatment plans: At a reputable wilderness therapy program, all clients should receive an individualized treatment plan based on their personal needs, goals, and issues. The individualized plans should be carefully monitored by a licensed mental health professional to help solve the impending problems.
  1. Aftercare, transitional support to children: Progress doesn’t stop the day a client leaves treatment. As such, therapeutic staff members should ensure the teen has a smooth transition back into the real world. Moreover, the family and the client should receive adequate aftercare services to ensure the progress made during treatment lasts.
  1. Medical care: A credible wilderness therapy program conducts a medical examination upon admission and routine medical check-ups to monitor participants’ well-being.

Image: IStock

Focus on looking for programs that emphasize education and life skills rather than harsh punishments, detentions, and curfews. Some programs even take place in the wilderness rather than confined settings to help the teens feel comfortable.

1. How long do teens stay at boot camp?

Usually, boot camps for juveniles and teens may last anywhere from six weeks to six months. However, the duration of stay may vary depending on the teen’s response towards achieving positive behaviors (2).

2. What is the difference between military school and boot camp?

Military schools mostly reject applications from teenagers who display rebellious or inappropriate behaviors. On the other hand, a boot camp operates with the intent to correct such behaviors in teens through consistent mentoring and teaching (3).

3. How do boot camps for troubled teens differ from traditional therapy programs?

Boot camps for troubled teens prioritize strict discipline and behavior modification, often focusing on physical training and learning. Traditional therapy programs, on the other hand, emphasize psychological well-being, counseling, and addressing underlying issues through evidence-based interventions.

4. How can parents stay involved and informed while their teen is in boot camp?

To stay involved and informed while the teen is in boot camp, parents can maintain regular communication with the staff, join parent support groups, and seek professional guidance from specialized therapists to support their child in the best possible way.

As a parent, check on your teen’s mental health before pushing them into a rigorous boot camp where they might get worse. Look into the different boot camps available and choose a suitable one for your teenager based on the behavior correction interventions they employ. As teenagers, we were all rebellious once in our ways. Hence, harsh parenting of a teen is not recommended. Instead, consider enrolling them in a discipline-based counseling program that can provide appropriate guidance and support.

Infographic: What Are The Types Of Boot Camps For Teenagers?

Boot camps provide an excellent opportunity for teens to learn life skills, new activities, and how to live a disciplined lifestyle. The below infographic includes various types of boot camps available for teenagers. Check them out and enroll your teen in a boot camp of their choice.

different types of boot camps for your teenager (infographic)

Illustration: Momjunction Design Team

Download Infographic in PDF version

Key Takeaways

  • A military-style boot camp encourages teenagers to make correct and positive decisions.
  • Avoid sending your child to a boot camp if they have any mental health disorders.
  • Select a boot camp that evaluates entrants, provides expert supervision, and encourages family involvement.
  • Furthermore, camps that emphasize specialized training and honing a teen’s life skills without using harsh punishments are ideal.


MomJunction’s articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
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