20 Signs You Need to Send Your Child to a Boot Camp for Teens

Boot camp for teens

Boarding school. Boot camp. Parents joke about sending their teens to one or the other – or both – when they’re acting up, and then we all laugh about it.

My parents joked with me about Swiss Boarding School (the year-round variety, too) if I forgot to tell my mom I needed 100 cupcakes until the day before a school event.

We’ve all been there, but the reality is that teen boot camp is a real place for real teens, and it’s not pleasant. Boot camp for teens is not the same thing as your average sleepaway camp, and you need to know this.

Boot camp for teens

The good news is that it’s entirely unlikely your teen needs to go to boot camp any more than I did growing up. It’s a light-hearted joke parents make when their good kids do something wrong.

However, if your child’s behavior is extreme, boot camp might not sound like such a joke to you. That light-hearted banter so many of us use is not light-hearted in your home, and there is very little that anyone can do to make it sound humorous.

Are there signs your teen really does need to go to boot camp?

Boot camp for teens

What is Boot Camp for Teens?

There is not a one size fits all boot camp solution for teens. There are so many options, programs, and levels that you can choose from, which is why we are discussing the signs.

Your job, once you notice the signs, is to decide for yourself which camp program is right for your child. What we can tell you, however, is that the popularity of teen boot camps began to grow in the 1990s (which is not 10 years ago, if you can believe that).

The purpose of most boot camps for teens, though, is to straighten out their behavior. These camps are designed to help teens learn how to manage their behaviors, make better choices, and stop putting their lives at risk.

They are extreme last resorts, and many people have differing opinions on the safety and effectiveness of different boot camp styles.

Boot camp for teens

Boot Camp is Not Always Your Decision As A Parent

When your teen’s behavior requires legal action, a court of law might be the one to decide whether to send your child to boot camp. When your teen’s behavior runs the gamut of breaking the law, being arrested, and seeing their day in court, it’s no longer your decision.

If a court decides your child needs to attend a boot camp for troubled teens, you will follow through with the program regardless of your thoughts, opinions, and feelings.

The good news, however, is that you can make the decision on your own before a court of law is involved. If your child’s behavior is going in the direction of legal issues, it’s time to intervene.

Being able to help your child before their legal record is called into question becomes necessary in some situations, and this is where you’ll find yourself faced with a decision. This is, perhaps, the most important decision you’ll make. But how do you know if your teen’s behavior is out of control and they need boot camp? There are signs.

**It is imperative to note that some of these signs – when they standalone – are not indicative of a teen in need of boot camp. However, when your teen exhibits more than a handful of the minor signs on a regular basis, this is when you worry.

Boot camp for teens

1. Your Teen is Hateful

Not every hateful teen is in need of boot camp. Almost every teen will hate you at least once or twice during their teenage years. It is, after all, how you know you are doing a good job raising them and keeping them out of trouble.

Boot camp for teens

2. Your Teen is Violent

Violence is never the answer, and the insight it provides into your teen’s behavior is telling. If your teen is violent toward you, your family, pets or other animals, or other people, it is not a good sign.

Boot camp for teens

3. Your Teen Has a Temper

Everyone has a temper when their buttons are pushed correctly – even the calmest and most laid-back person in the world has their limits. The question you need to ask is if your teen’s temper is dangerous, violent, or frequent.

Boot camp for teens

4. Your Teen is Openly Defiant of Rules at Home and Anywhere Else

Openly defying rules is a telling sign that your teen is in need of some intervention.

Boot camp for teens

5. Your Teen is in Regular Trouble at School

Trouble at school is subjective. Your teen being the class clown in trouble for a smart mouth or cracking jokes during serious moments is one type of trouble. It’s the kind of trouble that you worry about escalating that is a problem.

Boot camp for teens

6. Your Teen’s Friends are Trouble

Just because you don’t like their friends does not make them bad friends or bad kids. However, some kids are trouble, and you’ll know. If your teen’s friends are in trouble, engaged in questionable activities, and openly defy rules, it’s a problem.

Boot camp for teens

7. Your Teen is Using Drugs

Drug use is a major sign of trouble in a teen.

Boot camp for teens

8. Your Teen is Using Alcohol

Unpopular opinion – your teen is probably going to try a sip of beer or a wine cooler on occasion. This doesn’t make it right, but a moment of social experimentation versus regular alcohol use, driving under the influence, and getting into the vehicle of other people who are driving under the influence is a problem.

Boot camp for teens

9. Your Teen is Involved in Illegal Activities

Unfortunately, you might not know your teen is engaged in illegal activities until it is too late. However, if you happen to see this going on before the authorities do, intervene before it’s too late.

Boot camp for teens

10. Your Teen Refuses to Accept Responsibility for Their Actions

Again, on a standalone basis, this is not really a sign your child needs boot camp. Learning to accept responsibility for their actions is something that kids, well, have to learn. They won’t learn if they’re not required, and it’s sometimes a process. However, if your child repeatedly refuses to do so and also exhibits other signs of trouble, it might be more.

Boot camp for teens

11. Your Teen Does not Communicate

Again, this is kind of a common teen character trait in many kids. Teens are going through a lot or hormonal changes, life changes, and social changes. They’re growing up quickly, and they’re suddenly faced with major life changes that they didn’t experience even a year or two prior. They are dealing with a lot, and sometimes they shut down. However, a quiet teen who doesn’t like to open up is not the same thing as a teen who flat refuses to communicate.

Boot camp for teens

12. Your Teen is Withdrawn

Being withdrawn is not uncommon for teens, but there’s a fine line between wanting peace and quiet and a little privacy and being withdrawn from everyone in their life.

Boot camp for teens

13. Your Teen Exhibits Signs of Depression

Sadly, depression is not always visible to those who are not experiencing it. Sometimes, depression looks like an outwardly happy person with everything to live for. Some people are good at hiding what’s going on inside their minds, and they can’t change it. If you suspect your teen is depressed in any capacity, seeking help is imperative.

Boot camp for teens

14. Your Teen’s Behavior is Angry and Frustrated

We are all angry and frustrated on occasion. I can set my clock by my own anger and frustration, and it’s usually around the time I’m driving my kids to school.

Being a Floridian in a coastal community inundated with tourists and snowbirds leaves a lot to be desired in traffic. However, your teen’s anger and frustration should also ebb and flow. There’s normal, and then there is frequent. You’ll know the difference.

Boot camp for teens

15. Your Teen is Harming Themselves

If your teen is exhibiting signs of self-harm, you must seek immediate medical help. This doesn’t necessarily mean boot camp help, but it does mean medical help. Teens should not have the desire to harm themselves. Ever.

Boot camp for teens

16. Your Teen is a Danger to Other People

This is a standalone. If your teen is a danger to anyone, themselves included, seeking help is no longer an option.

Boot camp for teens

17. You Fear for the Safety of Your Teen

Whether your teen is doing drugs, drinking, engaging in illegal activity, self-harming, or engaging in dangerous and stupid activities that put their lives in danger, you cannot wait to until your teen is hurt to seek help. If your teen is a danger to themselves or their own safety is in question – get help.

Boot camp for teens

18. You Fear for the Safety Of Yourself and Your Other Children

Sadly, one of the most common reasons that people finally seek help for their out of control teenagers is that they finally put their other children in danger. Do you fear leaving a young child with your teen because your teen doesn’t watch them? Or because your teen puts them in danger? Has your teen put your young child in the car with them while they’re engaging in illegal or dangerous activities, using drugs or alcohol, or spending time with questionable people? This is not the time to hesitate.

Boot camp for teens

19. Your Teen Blames Their Issues on Other People

Much like refusing to accept responsibility for their actions, your teen blaming their issues on everyone else might be a sign they are headed for trouble. Your teen didn’t do anything wrong, the people with them did. They didn’t want to do anything wrong, they were influenced to do something wrong. They didn’t do it, the people they were with did it. The common denominator here is that your teen is involved in activities that are getting kids in trouble, and they’re refusing to accept the fact that their choice to engage in that activity is just that – their own choice.

Boot camp for teens

20. Your Child’s Life is in Danger

End of discussion – if your child’s life is in danger, get help. Don’t wait. Do not hesitate. Don’t think about it. Get help. If you know your child’s life is in danger, and you do nothing to try and put an end to this, you are every bit as much a part of the problem.

Boot camp for teens

What Else Do I Need to Know?

Teenage boot camp is not a joke. It’s a highly disciplined, structured program, no matter which type of program you choose. Every state has options for teen boot camp, and each one differs.

There are military style boot camps, religious camps, and more. What you do need to know, though, is that teen boot camp is not an inexpensive option. It is expensive, and many families find that the cost of boot camp for their teen is in the five to six figure range.

Some are more affordable for others, but it’s also important to notate that you will want to do your research before you settle on a program. One that is significantly less expensive than the others might be a warning sign. One that offers questionable methods of discipline that make you uncomfortable might not be a good fit.

At the end of the day, though, these are camps designed to help your child learn to bring their life out of a dark spiral, and they might not always help. Your teen may or may not respond to this camp.

There is never a guarantee that your child will come out of a boot camp a changed person. You are taking a wild risk with a teenage boot camp, but there are situations in which you might not feel you have a choice.

You are the parent, and you are going to find that making this decision is among the most difficult decisions you’ll ever make. The only way you’re not making this decision is when it’s too late, and a court makes this decision for you.

Additional Resources for Troubled Teens

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