Boot camp: Life help for young adults

Families with extreme concern for the young adult in their life may look for help in a boot camp program. These types of programs are often short-term and use military tactics involving strict discipline, rigorous physical activity and corporal punishment. Parents turn to military-style boot camps to save their child from:

  • Manipulative behavior
  • Future incarceration
  • Unemployment
  • Substance abuse and addiction
  • Technology obsession
  • Poor academic achievement

Does boot camp work?

Most parenting experts say no. Military-style treatment with harsh punishment is not an effective behavior management strategy. Most research studies on boot camps show that scare tactics used to force students to behave are not effective. When an authoritarian “leader” is yelling in a young adult’s face and threatening them with extreme physical activity, the young adult will follow instructions. When young adults leave the program, they do not have this type of motivation and commonly practice the same behavior as soon as they return to the real world. 

What is a good alternative?

When looking for a program to help the young adult in your life, the following areas should be considered:

  • Staff Qualifications: The staff at boot camps are often unqualified to work with struggling young adults. It is important that your young adult works with compassionate, trained experts that have experience and all of the necessary qualifications. 
  • Discipline Style: Unlike corporal punishment, positive discipline techniques are shown to be the most effective. The use of logical and natural consequences teach young adults valuable life lessons. Many students have not learned to apply social, emotional and behavioral skills, which reflects in challenging behavior that requires discipline. As young adults become older, they often become more verbal and defiant. A good discipline plan includes both praise of good behavior with positive reinforcement and negative, logical consequences. 
  • Environment: Residential programs provide a wide variety of environment options. Some are remote locations where students experience rugged conditions and are expected to navigate surviving in the wilderness. Boot camp environments are strict, structured and militaristic, providing no comfort, communication or support. An ideal environment is therapeutic. This type of environment offers young adults the opportunity to work through their feelings, emotions, past trauma and more in a healthy way.
  • Skills Taught: Boot camps do not teach young adults helpful skills. The student will not be living in a boot camp program forever, so it is vital that they gain the skills needed to successfully live in today’s society. When students lack the ability to make good decisions, they need to learn skills that will create lasting change so that they are empowered to make healthy choices. Lasting change takes resilience and determination. Young adults need to be taught tools for success so that they can effectively navigate life’s complexities. Boot camp does not teach healthy communication or interpersonal relationship skills. 

How can Skyterra Embrace help?

The expert team at Skyterra Embrace has more than 30 years of therapeutic program experience specializing in the transition to adulthood. Embrace is a therapeutic program designed to help young adults become the heroes of their stories.

Unlike short-term boot camp programs, Embrace teaches young adults how to plan for and live out the vision for their future. This type of lifelong direction can give students a purpose and encourage resilience.

Our discipline style makes sense because it is both logical and natural. Logical consequences are directly related to the young adult’s offense. Natural consequences make sense because the authority figure is seen less as the “bad guy” and more as a decision facilitator. Many important life skills are taught at Skyterra including:

  • Budgeting and finance: Classes covering these topics include personal finance and how to live within a budget.
  • Time management: Having a full schedule with projects and assignments will help students prioritize their time.
  • Communication and interpersonal skills: Facilitated group activities will teach students to effectively communicate and problem-solve.
  • Healthy coping skills: Students usually turn to destructive habits to try to cope with difficulty. Applying healthy habits will allow students to work through their difficulties in a productive way.
  • Sleep, fitness and nutrition: These core components of Embrace are taught in detail so that students will see that they are important both individually and collectively.
  • Identifying needs and wants: We work with students to analyze the things they think that they need and want. Talking through what the student needs in the moment will help them to take necessary steps toward being healthy.
  • Building confidence: We empower students to understand their capabilities and show them that they are able to grow and do difficult things.
  • Stress management: Embrace teaches students how to handle stress and work through healthy ways to eliminate unnecessary stressors.
  • Self-discovery: When a student knows themselves well and can articulate their passions and goals, they are able to work towards the future and create a better life.
  • Navigating societal pressure: Learning to work through the pressures of life helps students lower stress and anxiety.
  • Overcoming barriers: When things do not go the way a student thinks they should or when things are not as easy as they should be, many students freeze and retreat. By learning to overcome these barriers, students can keep moving forward.

Authoritarians who are in charge of boot camps are focused on short-term results. The desired outcome is for the young adult to submit to the orders that are barked at them. The vision of our caring, supportive team at Skyterra Embrace is that each young adult attending the program will move well, eat nourishing foods, and embrace adulthood with a healthy mind, body and spirit.