What is Boot Camp for Kids?

S. Pike

Army boot camp, or basic training, is an intensive program designed both to jolt a recruit out of his regular life and routine and to physically test and prepare him for the rest of his term in the armed forces. Besides physical training, boot camp imposes rules and regulations that may be far more strict than recruits are likely to encounter in civilian life. Boot camp for kids does not mark the beginning of an army career, but it similarly separates kids from their regular lives for the purpose of testing and training them for a new future. There are two types of boot camp for kids, with somewhat overlapping stated purposes: discipline and weight loss.

Boot camp is sometimes used in an attempt to prevent recidivism among young people who have committed crimes.
Boot camp is sometimes used in an attempt to prevent recidivism among young people who have committed crimes.

For "troubled teens," boot camps are a somewhat controversial means of trying to rehabilitate teens and, sometimes, preteens who have engaged in criminal activity or are considered at risk for it. These kids typically neither require prison time nor have responded favorably to probation or counseling. The military-style camps include the common denominator of intense physical conditioning. From there, approaches diverge, with some claiming to educate about substance abuse and promote leadership and others seeking to break down the child's defiance and return him or her to society a "good soldier." The controversial nature of boot camp for kids stems both from a dearth of evidence that the boot camp approach is effective at preventing recidivism and from a general perception that juvenile offenders are there to be punished more than helped.

Boot camp for kids often involves doing exercises from military boot camp programs, such as push ups.
Boot camp for kids often involves doing exercises from military boot camp programs, such as push ups.

Weight loss camp for kids may feel just as much like punishment for some participants at times, but this kind of boot camp for kids or teenagers is not punitive, only intensive. Their object is to remove overweight kids and teens from their regular environments and teach them new dietary and physical habits while jump-starting weight loss. At the camp, kids are likely to find camaraderie in peers going through similar struggles. They may experience exercise programs based on military boot camp as well, including activities such as running, jumping jacks, sit-ups, and push-ups.

A boot camp is an alternative to incarceration for juvenile offenders.
A boot camp is an alternative to incarceration for juvenile offenders.

Unlike weight loss boot camp for adults, teen boot camp may be less focused on helping campers overcome longstanding habits, as teens haven't had as long to fall into unhealthy lifestyle ruts. These camps may focus more on building self-esteem, often an issue among teens of any weight or fitness level. Further, while adult "boot camps" may actually just be a series of fitness classes, boot camps for kids are more likely to be camps where kids go to live for a period of time, such as part of a summer vacation.

Boot camps may help separate teens from negative peer influence.
Boot camps may help separate teens from negative peer influence.

Another difference between disciplinary and fitness boot camp for kids is independent recognition of their efficacy. A paper published in the International Journal of Obesity recognized that weight-loss camps for teenagers could accomplish their goals of improved fitness and higher self-esteem in campers even after camp ended. The study found a causal relationship between improved psychological state and greater weight loss in weight-loss campers.

Boot camp for kids may be helpful for young people who require discipline.
Boot camp for kids may be helpful for young people who require discipline.
Boot camps for "troubled teens" may educate participants about substance abuse.
Boot camps for "troubled teens" may educate participants about substance abuse.

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Discussion Comments

Wisedly33

If it's done correctly, I've heard of the military boot camps for kids actually doing some good. I guess it all depends on what the individual responds to. I know some people who work for children's services and they say it's worked for some of their cases. The kids learn self-confidence and this, in turn, boosts their self-esteem.

Some camps also have workshops where kids can check out different kinds of skills and trades, which can help give them some direction about their future. If they also receive mentoring, the camps can help. But if the program is primarily punitive, nothing good comes out of it.

Scrbblchick

I never heard of a weight loss camp referred to as a boot camp. I always thought they were just called weight loss camps. I always wanted to go to one, though. My parents couldn't afford it, but I always thought it might help me really get some weight off.

I guess everyone has something they really wish they had done, and this is one of those things for me.

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