The troubled teen is something completely different. In a society where many parents have chosen to abdicate from the unsavory aspects of parenting in favor of the role of friend, many families find themselves struggling with the teenage version of a terrible two-year-old who was never given any boundaries. All of this was done with the best of intentions.
We are a society that worships freedom and with a little help from the media it was easy to conclude that children needed an unlimited amount of it in order to grow up healthy and liberated. Brat camps drop the troubled teen right into the middle of nature at its most fierce and beautiful. Using the uncompromising simplicity of the wilderness as a model, the teen is helped to regain a sense of place along with healthy boundaries. Yes, I am not afraid to admit it. We parents have been somewhat backward in coming forward in drawing lines and asking for respect. We were confused and intent on not crushing the spirit of our offspring. That is why we were extra surprised and horrified when our good intentions earned us the teenage version of this confusion. Born into a world where so much is in question teens sometimes behave badly. Their behavior is a symptom of their confusion and, as much as we parents might want to set it right, provide answers and some certainty, we are often hard pressed.
Brat camps were established to help families deal with the results of this confusion. Sometimes we may feel at the end of our tether. Communication can become so distorted that we find ourselves in an alien land desperately trying to damage control a situation that has gone badly awry. Brat camps use the natural landscape and the uncompromising tasks of everyday life to heal the wounds born of our attempts at liberal parenting.
Of course, this is not the only reason for the troubled teen’s struggles. There are others that have to do with unavoidable life circumstances like the loss of someone dear. Whatever the cause, the results are hauntingly similar. The troubled teen feels like an alien dropped into a foreign universe. Apart from these deep feelings of alienation, the teen may be a bursting reservoir of brimming emotions without an outlet. The child feels so misplaced that the comforts of normal relations appear completely out of reach. Desperation will often lead the teen to experiment with conscious and unconscious forms of self-destruction. The situation slides rapidly into an emergency.
Brat camps captured the public imagination when ABC premiered the reality TV show of that name based on a highly successful, long-running series in the UK. For many viewers it was a first look at a concept they hadn’t known existed. The featured ‘brat camp’ was called Sage Walk, a wilderness school in the high desert plains of Oregon. In the reality TV program the action follows the experiences of a small group of truculent, dysfunctional teens aged between 14 and 17 years.
Sage Walk is one of the more enlightened brat camps out there with a well-established therapeutic aspect and none of the philosophy of deprivation that is a feature of some of the more radical “boot camps”. Parents should be wary of brat camps that operate along stringent military lines. These methods are controversial and the success rate has been disputed. When deciding on a brat camp be sure to visit the place before enrolling your child. The principal of knocking sense into a child has long been discarded for good reason, so drop schools that brandish that attitude if you want profound results that offer your teen a new chance at life that actually lasts.