Troubled Boys (w Kenneth R. Rosen)

What do you with troubled boys?

With boys who are failing school, sneaking off, and using substances? Boys who have resisted disciplinary efforts and redirection?

That’s the question at the heart of Kenneth R. Rosen’s latest book, Troubled: The Failed Promise of America’s Behavioral Treatment Programs. There are no easy answers to that question but Ken’s book makes one thing abundantly clear: sending your son away to a camp or program for troubled children probably won’t help. In fact, sending troubled boys away may make things worse.

I remember feeling so different, so lost, and so tossed aside by all the people that were supposed to mentor me and guide me through a very difficult time,” Ken says, a former “troubled teen” who spent years in residential treatment programs.

By the time a boy’s behavior is so disruptive that his parents and others are considering “sending him away,” the family unit has likely been “broken for many, many years,” says Ken. Lack of communication and lack of trust in parents and family are often the root causes that drive children toward alcohol, drugs and disruptive behavior.

Kids who aren’t thriving (or, frankly, even meeting basic expectations) in traditional educational environments may require a different approach  — but “different” doesn’t have to mean boarding school or wilderness camp. Meeting kids’ needs within their communities, while helping them (re)connect with family can be life-changing.

That kind of support, however, is rarely available. More available are educational consultants who funnel families toward (pricey) residential treatment centers, “camps,” and “spas” that are presented as a “one-stop fix” for troubled children. That, Ken says, should be parents’ first warning sign, as complex problems cannot be solved with a single solution.

In this episode, Jen, Janet & Ken discuss:
  • How gender stereotypes can negatively affect our parenting
  • Family dynamics’ influence on kids’ behavior
  • The need for community support of families and children
  • How too many boundaries can hinder kids
  • Why alternative education options are necessary
  • The power of listening
  • The problems with many wilderness and residential treatment programs (spoiler: many are not actually accredited)
  • Legislative efforts to regulate programs aimed at troubled kids and families
  • What to look for when considering behavior modification programs (and red-flags to watch for!)
  • The power of committed, non-judgmental love
Links we mentioned (or should have) in this episode:

Troubled: The Failed Promise of America’s Behavioral Treatment Programs — Ken’s book — Ken’s website

Traditional School Isn’t Always the Way to Go, and I Wish My Parents Would Have Seen That EarlierWashington Post article by Ken

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