What happens when you find yourself at an impasse in your home and need to get outside help? There are many different options: psychological services, church programs, wilderness programs, for example, and we’ll discuss them at some point. But for now, I want to highlight one of them that I have personal experience with – BOOT CAMP!
Although this article isn’t going into great detail about the boot camp, it gives you the foundation on the initial principles on which it’s based. While this program is in place in Walton County, it’s my hope that people elsewhere will begin to look into this type of program as a possible option.
1. Kids arrive, ATTITUDE intact. They are not responding to traditional methods. Basically, they “tune” their parents and teachers out. When arriving at the boot camp, they attempt to do the same with their instructors.
2. So……the boot camp answer is to GET THEIR ATTENTION - and that we do! The first purpose is to provide deterrence through military style physical training that breaks down the barriers that traditional methods have not been successful in doing. We employ intense physical training through military confidence course training, weight room activities, ropes course, and military drills. Once we get their attention, it becomes easier to confront behaviors as they occur. It’s up to the cadet how many times they want to revisit the same behavior. Our reaction to the behavior will be consistent. It’s then up to the cadet to decide whether they will continue to be stubborn or explore new options. The confidence course provides an avenue to try something that they may never have tried before and it is not optional whether you do it or not;quitting is not an option either! However, all the help they will need for success is provided, along with encouragement and cheerleading when successful.
3. Once a cadet is to the point where he or she is willing to listen, we begin REBUILDING the structure and at the same time, work on the relationship aspect. That is done in the evening while helping with homework and during life skills and rehabilitative character training sessions where they ask questions of instructors and guest speakers. There is the positive aspect to the life skills training, but also the reality side of it too. We also stress to the cadets that much of the structure and lack of choice over what happens to them represents what prison life would be like if many continue down a destructive path.
4. The next step is to TEST them and see if they understand how to “self-correct”. Invariably, after about two weeks (more oftentimes more), the older cadets begin to teach the newer ones. That’s because we have the opportunity to be consistent, as new habits are being formed. When the opportunity to be tested comes, will they do what they‘ve always done, or what they’ve learned? And what better way to test what you’ve learned than to teach others? When a new cadet messes up, sometimes, instead of doing the teaching myself, I’ll call on a more seasoned cadet to speak. I’m always amazed at what they say (I think they are too!). When they see what they accomplish through being MOTIVATED by their instructors, they are encouraged to do the same for others in the group. Once kids get outside of the “me” mentality, it becomes a challenge to them to encourage and motivate others and many of them jump at the chance! In the boot camp, they get that opportunity.
5. PROMOTE: many are rewarded with leadership positions when they’ve proven that they can handle responsibility and help others to realize their potential. I’ve had young ladies that started out so out of control that law enforcement had to intervene, and not only have they ended up leading a squad, but have had several personal events where an old temptation was presented and the cadet declined on their own. We receive testimonies like that from parents and teachers all the time. The same has occurred with the male groups. As a matter of fact, many have rejoined the boot camp and become tutors and mentors themselves.
So, regardless of how cocky and sure of themselves defiant kids seem to be, I find that they are really just unsure of themselves and lack confidence. That’s where the physical training comes in. We push them to their endurance, and then push a little bit farther. One of my favorite sayings is, “True success means doing more than “just good enough””. The young person finds out the he or she can do more than they realized, then, they begin to trust us; and themselves. The best example of this was when one of my female cadets, terrified of heights and afraid to try anything new, refused to climb over a confidence course wall. She was enrolled in boot camp for being lazy, among other things. She was given no choice in the matter, and had people there to help her and the responsibility was on her to trust us. She told me later that her greatest moment in boot camp was when (in her own words):
“I got over that wall by myself! I felt great and realized that if I can do this, I can do a whole lot more!”
She has been one of the most improved and I’ve had the chance many times over to tell her how proud I am of her. Her grades are also coming up.
The bottom line is this: Whether chronic behavior or reacting from circumstances beyond their control, some of our kids have a hard time realizing their potential, so they give up, and become angry and regressive when corrected. The controlled environment puts them in a position to look forward, not backwards. And even when it’s two steps forward and one step back, the steps they are taking are still steps in the right direction, which is a step they weren’t on when they began.
Coming soon, feedback from our teachers, the cadets and their parents. Also, more detail about the things our boot camp cadets do.They volunteer to raise money for school programs in the community, for one. For fun (but not too much fun) we even go on field trips. So, what kind of field trip do boot camp squads go on, you ask? A "bear crawl" to the top of Stone Mountain! Part three coming soon.
If you think this is the right option for your situation - here is where you will find some more information.
bootcamp_brochure.pdf (see photos)