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Boot Camps for Girls

By Staff Writer

In moments of rage or desperation, parents often threaten to send their sons to boot camp, where they hope harsh discipline and regimented schedules will “knock some sense” into their teen. But what do you do if it is your daughter who is acting out, rebelling, and disturbing the peace in your home? Is boot camp right for a teenage girl?

Know Your Goals: Punishment or Behavioral Change?

In order to decide whether a boot camp is right for your teenage daughter, you first have to assess your goals. While boot camps are effective as a form of punishment to send teens a message that their behavior needs to change, they do not provide teens with the skills, insight, or experiences they need to make lasting behavioral changes.

Because boot camps usually employ tactics of intimidation and humiliation, grueling physical activity, and little food or sleep, they may be effective in temporarily scaring your daughter into behaving better. Or she may get better at hiding her risky behaviors in the future. But over time, the same problems are likely to arise that led her to boot camp in the first place – this time with added bitterness and resentment toward her parents.

Know Your Teen Girl

It is the rare teen who needs an oppressive, ego-abusive environment in order to learn to behave. If your teen girl is interested in a career in the military, boot camp serves a legitimate purpose – but these teens are the exception, not the rule.

In most cases, teens act out, experiment with drugs or alcohol, and lose interest at school for emotional reasons, not because they are “bad kids” or need to be put in their place. Teen boot camps use oppressive techniques, such as shackles, handcuffs, dehydration, and exhaustion, to tear down a child’s self-esteem and teach teens to obey out of fear. Drill sergeants are not looking to understand and treat the underlying issues causing the teen to act out; they are merely trying to squash the symptoms (the negative behaviors) as quickly as possible, using whatever means necessary.

Know Your Options

More than likely, what your daughter really needs is a program that will boost her self-esteem and teach her new communication and coping skills through structure, support, therapy, and activities. This way, change is her choice and comes from within rather than being imposed by outside forces.

Therapeutic boarding schools, residential treatment centers, and wilderness therapy programs offer esteem-building activities, opportunities to develop leadership skills, and new coping and communication strategies that help teens connect with their parents in healthier ways. Teens who graduate from these therapeutic programs know that their parents love and care for them and have gone to great lengths to create a better life for the entire family. Resentment is replaced with gratitude as the teen learns the benefits of a happy home life.

If you still feel that your teen girl needs a “tough love” approach to turn her behavior around, there are plenty of therapeutic programs for teens that are based on discipline, hard work, and respect for authority, without resorting to oppressive or abusive tactics. These programs bring about long-term change by balancing tough love with intensive individual, group, and family therapy and sending a strong message of caring and support.

If you research your options, you will likely find that boot camps are a quick-fix solution to a deep-seated emotional or behavioral problem that would be more appropriately and cost effectively addressed at a boarding school or wilderness camp. It’s one thing to lose time or money finding the right program for your teen girl – it’s another to lose your daughter in the process.

Call the National Resource Center at (877) 637-6237 to speak with trained counselors who know which types of treatment are effective for even the most defiant, rebellious teens. They will help make sure you get it right the first time.

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