Teen Boot Camps...Anyone With Any Experiences?

My stepdaughter is really acting out, and she has already been placed in foster care by DCS due to her bad behavior, which includes sneaking out, smoking, cutting herself, punching holes in our walls, setting fires, uncontrollable anger, bad attitude, cursing at myself and her mom and generally trying to manipulate us to get her way when she’s here with us.

We went to court yesterday and the judge was pretty pissed at her lack of progress, and basically has given her a month to get her shit together (because she behaves so well anywhere but here at home, apparently) or he’s going to send her to this place in Indiana called The Lagoda Academy, which is supposed to be a teen boot camp for troubled teenaged girls aged 10-19.

She is 14 and we cannot figure out what happened to our little girl.

If anyone has any experiences, comments or helpful advice, it is appreciated.

Mods, I was unsure as to where this should go, so I put it here.

Thanks in advance.

Wow, that sucks. I’m sorry.

I don’t have any experience with stuff like this, but I did randomly read the memoir Come Back last summer and it deals with this sort of situation. Both the mom and the daughter wrote it together so you get parent freaking-out/pissed off/scared/helpless viewpoint and kid confused/angy/etc viewpoint. It might hit too close to home, but it also might be nice to read about someone else and know that whatever feelings of frustration and anger are normal and that other people have dealt with this too.

Thanks, I’ll check it out. I’m wondering if any Dopers out there have any anecdotal or factual experiences with a teen boot camp, because unless things change drastically for her, that’s where she’s headed. And it’s for a whole year.

I worry because that’s an eternity for a teenager, as well as being worried in general that the boot camp environment may not be helpful.

let her go. It’s probably the best thing for her.

When I was 13 or so, I was a horrible kid who had destructive patterns. Lieing, cheating, failing classes, being suspended for fights, basically acting out repeatedly. At first my parents tried to be understanding. Tried to be nice, easy going, accommodating. Tried to reason with me that my behavior was destructive and served no purpose but to hold me back. It pains me to type this now but back then, I didn’t really care. As soon as I got a chance, I found myself back into trouble. Not because I was looking to make them feel bad or to find ways to get into trouble; It just simply happened. Time after time. But, I didn’t stop my shit. Basically required them to beat discipline into me. It took several years and I had a few relapses but they were minor.

Unfortunately, for some children you can’t reason with them. They don’t know whats best for themselves. Your daughter sounds like she needs structure and boundaries. Kids like her, although adverse at first, can really thrive in an environment like that. Although it sounds harsh, her spirit needs to be broken and then remolded in a highly structured environment. Boot camp is a great place to do it. They aren’t prisons. Most of the individuals there want to really help kids. But they only way to do it is to completely control the child. It’s going to be hard but you should seriously consider making her go.

I guess I’ll bump this one more time, just because I am desperate for information/experiences. If it falls off after this, then…ce la vie.

Thank you. I bumped the thread prematurely since I didn’t see your response.

I agree that she needs some tough love. I am her step-dad, and I’ve known her since she was five. Due to crazy circumstances, my wife didn’t have custody of her legally until she was nine, and my MIL had legal custody.

My MIL gave in to her eevry whim, presumably to try to “make up” for the lack of parental leadership in her life. Now that chicken has come home to roost as she feels and acts like she’s entitled to her every whim, and she is abusive to me, my wife, her brothers and our home.

There are times, being the son of a retired Army general (imagine that Great Santini upbringing!) when I literally want to give her a smack across the mouth when she tells her mom “Fuck you, you cunt-whore douchebag”, and I have to restrain myself. That shit didn’t fly back in my day, and it doesn’t fly with me.

But, I dare not lay a hand on her because it wouldn’t do any good at her age, and Child Services is involved in our case.

Man, this sucks. I’m tired of being called a “fucking faggot” by a smart-mouthed, apathetic teen with no sense of boundaries.

She isn’t improving and is well on her way to boot camp. I was merely soliciting advice/experiences/suggestions.

Cutting and setting fires go beyond simple behavioral issues. Those are often symptoms of abuse. You say she is your stepdaughter. Are you aware of any kind of abuse or trauma she may have been subjected to at an early age? If she has trauma issues, boot camp isn’t going to solve them. She’ll need therapy too.

I think boot camp can be helpful for some kids, but it’s not a cure for deep seated emotional disorders.

Yeah, I didn’t want to suggest that you should hit her or anything. That wouldn’t work. Just suggesting that boot camp could do what you really can’t. She can choose not to respect you, to hate you. Those people won’t give a fuck what she thinks about them and she won’t have much a choice in the matter.

Sorry this is happening to you. Maybe one day she shall come to a similar understanding that I have.

My wife’s ex-boyfriend at the time gave her a spiral fracture on her leg when she was one, which is what caused my wife to lose custody of her in the great state of Texas for ten years. Of course, my wife was at her job at Burger King as a scared 18 year old mother, and this asshole refused to work and became the default caretaker, and broke her leg. My wife was then charged with criminal neglect and was convicted of a felony for leaving Suzie in this idiot’s care.

It’s been a long process.

I’m hoping. I came to the same realization you did in my twenties about my parents, after I fucked up my life in many ways and needed to grow the fuck up.

Her situation and mine are similar but not the same. I could never have gotten away with telling the general (my Dad) “fuck you, faggot” without fear of very real physical retribution. It just wasn’t done, and I can’t stand that she speaks to her Mom and me in such a way, let alone any other adult.

She’s about to learn right quick, though.

I’ve taken the “ignore the behavior not the child” approach.

I suspect the ex-asshole inflicted more abuse than that. That kind of early childhood trauma, even in infancy, can cause long term emotional problems. Even if they don’t remember it, it still has a physiological impact on brain development (it happened to me and I still have some issues even at 42).

There is a likelihood that the early abuse is at the root of your stepdaughter’s behavior. Has she ever gotten therapy? I’m not saying not to try the boot camp. She probably needs some kind of a controlled environment, but sooner or later she’s going to have to dig into the abuse issues with a therapist. Her behavior is only a symptom. Boot camp might control the symptoms for a while but it won’t cure the virus.

I don’t disagree with your assessment. We’ve had counselling galore and it doesn’t seem to help.

Frankly, I cannot believe her level of apathy at her age.

Take away privledge “X”…“I don’t care”
Privledge “Y”…“I don’t care, screw you, I hate you, don’t talk to me, you’ve ruined my life”.

The biggest problem I and the judge have is that she’s perfectly fine behavior-wise outside the house. Her foster mother gives her glowing reports in court as to how great she behaves.

What’s pissing us and the judge off is that she shows that she CAN behave, just not here at home. Nobody has an answer why, other than that she regularly induges in episodic behavior centered around “hating us”.

She knows right from wrong, and since she’s been in the state system, she complies with what’s been required of her when she’s away from here. It’s when she visits us that the shit hits the fan, and she seems to not care that she’s very close to a forced boot camp, the prospect of which she views with a jaundiced and unrealistic eye: “They’ll do what I say”…“They can’t make me”… “I’ll do what I want, I’m a free person, why can’t I do what I want, it’s my body”, etc, etc, et al.

Since the OP is looking for personal experiences, this is better suited for IMHO than GQ.

General Questions Moderator

By coincidence, I flew my son home from therapeutic boarding school last week.

I can’t speak for boot camps; my son went to a wilderness camp and then to a therapeutic boarding school, but the experience is along the same continuum. A boot camp seems to make sense to me in that if a kid will not accept any structure in their life, then put them in a system where they can only receive rewards (even the most basic of rewards) if they toe the line. Once they begin to accept authority, then they can begin to trust those who may have influence in their lives and begin to learn.*

We placed our son in a wilderness camp after he became a risk to himself and others. It took a long time (partly due to circumstances beyond his control), but he did learn how to get along with others and that he can trust people. It did cost a lot (enough that I no longer have plans for retirement), but it doesn’t cost as much as it did for us.

I recommend that you meet with the last therapist who saw your stepdaughter and ask them about Lagoda (There’s not much on the web, which makes me think that they usually take kids from DCS.) Your stepdaughter’s therapist may also be able to recommend a academic placement agency/educational consultant. I’ll email the name of the people that we used, though there are probably others closer to you.

(Sorry for the rambling post; it’s late and I’m tired.)

*Wilderness camps do a similar thing but my natural consequences–if the kids are camping in the woods during winter, then they need to learn how to make a dry tent, start a fire and boil water.

Thank you. We’re at our wits end with her.

I don’t have any first hand experience, but I’ll offer a third hand story for you. A relative of my husband had a daughter who was in a similar frame of mind as you daughter. I believe she was also 14 at the time. She kept running away, they’d find her in crack houses, just major problems. This went on for some time, at which point the parents decided to send her to a boot camp thing. It wasn’t court-ordered, they had to trick her to get her there, telling her they were taking her to visit a relative or something like that.

Anyway, we didn’t hear much about it, but the girl is pretty much OK now, six years later. Not the brightest or most ambitious girl in the world, but functioning normally, doesn’t seem to have drug abuse problems or anything like that. Seems to have a good relationship with her parents.

I’m sorry I can’t tell you more; we actually aren’t very close to that part of his family and kind of got this info through the family grapevine. Just wanted to add that at least in this one similar case, it seems to have worked out.

You have my sympathy, I cannot imagine how I would deal with that situation.

Do you know why she is angry?

She says because we have “ruined her life” and that “she never gets what she wants”, when in fact, she is ruining her own life, and part of the reason that she’s in the situation she’s in is because when my wife didn’t have custody of her after the stupid ex-boyfriend incident, Texas granted custody to my MIL, whom indulged Suzie’s every whim and desire, and Suzie learned at an early age that to get what she wanted, she would whine or throw tantrums until she got it.

Now, my wife has had legal custody of Suzie for over five years now, but the behavior pattern hasn’t been broken, and Suzie cannot control her anger because she is now being denied things she thinks she should have when she hasn’t earned them.

It’s funny, as I type this to realize how easy it is to sit here and calmly diagnose these issues, but then when she’s with us and she calls my wife “stupid fucking whore cuntbag” because she wants to get more phone time than she’s allowed, it’s all downhill from there.

My wife and I have (and are) taken marriage counselling, Suzie’s in anger managent counselling, we’ve taken a 15 week parenting class and are about to take another geared towards teens…none of this shit seems to work. We’ve modified our behavior and become concrete and unified on household rules through this process, yet Suze refuses to change.

if I didn’t mention it before, she also failed sixth grade and was failing all her classes this past year until she was placed at White’s Residential facility in Wabash, IN for three months, where by all accounts she did very well. Now, she had to take Summer School to pass seventh grade even after that, so she’ll be a 14 year old 8th grader.

The kicker in all of this is that we know Suzie can control herself, because she does just fine in foster care and when she was at the residential facility. Just not at home around us. It sucks.

Is the grandmother still in the picture?

Speaking from my own recent experience of being a teenager, I tended to act out towards people who presented any sort of arbitrary structure in my life – thankfully this has almost never been my mother, so I tended to act out towards others. Kids crave structure, but past a certain age, the structure cannot support itself. In my limited, tiny, inexperienced perception of this giant universe, anything that seemed arbitrary could go rot in fucking hell. I never asked to be alive or to be in a position I was in – I had no control over anything. A tiny human mind can’t bear the responsibilities of adulthood without at least some of their freedoms first. We also can’t act adult (unless by sheer coincidence) if we are not treated like an adult first. Adults get treated like crap, but adults have a legitimate option of not putting up with it. Teenagers do not.
In other words, any sort of place that’s even more arbitrary, nonsensical and restrictive than your average household/school/etc. can provide important perspective in appreciating the good parts of life. Boot camp might just be it, if it seems stupid and unfair enough for her.