Reform School: Is the Best Option?
If you're looking at sending your child to reform school, make sure to read this article first. In it, you'll find some tips that will help you choose a good one as well as a viable alternative if you decide that you'd rather not send your child away.
Whether you've been comparing different reform schools or have been looking at teen boot camps, there are some important things that you should know. The first is that sending your child to reform school is like sending him to prison. While this sounds extreme, sending your child away is a drastic measure. Although some parents may deem this necessary and see it as a final attempt to save their child, this is how your child will probably see it too. Don't be surprised if your child is deeply angry with you or refuses to talk to you when you visit.
Since the purpose of reform school is to get your child in line, there are usually rigid rules and harsh punishments for failure to conform. As a parent who is trying to do what is best for your child, you need to know exactly what these rules and punishments are. Familiarize yourself with the disciplinary tactics of the school and know their philosophy of behavior change and what they believe needs to happen in order for a teen to be transformed. This will tell you the lengths to which they are willing to go in order to achieve their goal, especially when faced with bad behavior. What you have to ask yourself is: is the potential outcome worth the risks? If your child's physical safety and well-being is put in jeopardy in any way, you may want to consider a different school.
Before selecting one of the many teen boot camps or schools out there, be sure to ask for references. Make sure to talk to other parents who have sent their children to this particular camp or school. Listen carefully to what they have to say and read between the lines to get insights into their viewpoint and experiences with the school. An important question to ask is how the experience at the school continues to influence their child today. Find out how their child is doing now.
One unintended effect of reform school is that while your child may be transformed under the rigidly enforced rules of the school, once home, his behavior may revert because he will be back in the environment that helped support that behavior in the first place. This is not a judgment about your parenting skills, but an important fact to be aware of: since schools and teen boot camps don't teach parents how to turn around child behavior, when kids are no longer in the presence of the authorities at the school, they may quickly return to their old ways.
This is why no matter what you decide, it is important to learn the parenting skills that will help you establish more authority in your home. What may surprise you is that you can do this without being harsh or punitive. These skills are simple and easy to learn, but need to be practiced in your daily interactions with your child in order to work. Doing so can make quick changes in your child's behavior that actually motivate him to continue making better choices in the future. Many of my clients have used an inexpensive (especially when compared with the cost of camp or school) at-home behavioral change program instead of reform school and no longer felt the need to send their kids away. If you do send your child to school, the at-home program will teach the skills you'll need to keep your child on track when he returns, so it's a smart move either way.
The advantages of a good behavioral change program is that it accomplishes what reform schools and teen boot camps do, but at a much lower cost, physically, emotionally and financially. Best of all, instead of some school authority becoming the agent of change in your child's life, you get to be the one who helps him turn his life around. Obviously, as the child or teen starts to realize the benefits of personal transformation, he will be inspired to continue on this path and view you with greater respect because you gave him the tools to change his life. This is parent-child experience that can change your relationship forever in a positive and powerful way.
So there you have it: some important things to consider when looking at a reform school and an alternative solution that can prevent the need to send your child away or help you to become his agent of change when he returns home.
Laura Ramirez is an advocate of helping troubled kids get their lives back on track with an at-home behavioral program like Total Transformation which was developed by a therapist who was once a troubled teen himself.
She is also the award-winning author of the parenting book, Keepers of the Children: Native American Wisdom and Parenting which teaches parents how to raise kids to develop their strengths and lead fulfilling, productive lives.
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