“If you want to bring a fundamental change in people’s belief and behavior […] you need to create a community around them, where those new beliefs can be practiced and expressed and nurtured”
-Malcolm Gladwell in The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference.
A strong community with the same values often results in greater changes in an individual’s behavior than anything else. Using Malcolm Gladwell’s study of crime and its roots, this article will help you understand why teens commit juvenile crimes and how to prevent them from doing so.
Specifically, you will learn how placing your teen in a therapeutic boarding school for troubled teens can help them find new, healthier values. It will also show you how these schools build a sense of community.
3 Major Reasons Why Troubled Teens Commit Juvenile Crimes
While one of the primary reasons that people commit crimes is rooted in community, it’s important to break down the causes of juvenile crimes. While sharing many commonalities with adults, teens also have nuanced reasons as to why they commit juvenile crimes.
1. Parents aren’t modeling healthy behaviors
Parents often define for children what their teen should view as healthy or typical behaviors. So, if a parent is negligent of their child and isn’t involved in their lives, it’s common for this teen to act out in ways that are detrimental to them and their future.
Likewise, if a parent has been involved in crime themselves, this behavior models for the child that criminality is an excellent way to respond to events in their lives. In psychology, this is referred to as intergenerational patterns that are repeated (what a child does has roots in the past) and may be signs of intergenerational trauma (history of abuse and neglect in that particular family or community). To learn more about intergenerational patterns and trauma, check out All About Love by Bell Hooks. This book is a good stepping stone to addressing healthy childhoods and forms of love.
2. Drug and alcohol abuse
Teens who commit juvenile crimes are often associated with drug and alcohol abuse. While there may be many reasons why a teen may abuse drugs and alcohol, one reason can be due to the desire to self-medicate. Self-medication is when individuals attempt to treat an underlying issue or illness on their own and without any medical guidance.
Drug and alcohol abuse is most common amongst boys, as this is seen as an acceptable and “cool” way of coping with painful thoughts, emotions, and events in their lives. Boys often feel like they cannot share their “real” emotions, so drugs and alcohol may be one of manifesting those emotions.
3. Lack of community
In research on teens and juvenile crimes, research, again and again, points to things like peer pressure, toxic values among peers, and social isolations as culprits.
Toxic values and peer pressure.
When teens are surrounded by peers who have toxic values and beliefs, your attempts to guide them in the right direction can seem futile and drowned out. That’s because teens are often trying to define themselves. Peer groups are one way that they try out different identities and find their identity. So, if their choice of friends includes individuals who engage in crime or delinquent behavior, your child will also most likely imitate these behaviors.
As social creatures, humans have a strong need to connect with others. This is especially true for younger people like teens. Not having any social support or a strong and healthy community often leads teens to find ways to build community or act out. This can take on different forms, such as joining gangs, hazing and bullying others, or behaving in harmful ways.
Build Community and Address Unhealthy Behaviors With Therapeutic Boarding Schools
To truly help your teen with the root causes of juvenile crimes, you will need to help them find new and healthier values, as well as a community that supports them. Issues such as mental illness and substance abuse will also need to be addressed.
A therapeutic boarding school will help them find healthier values and beliefs
Because your teen might have learned toxic values and beliefs from those around them
and from even themselves, a therapeutic boarding school can help them unlearn these beliefs and values. One of the ways that they do this is by creating structure.
These schools will also involve your teen in different therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT). With CBT and DBT, your teen will learn different approaches like:
- reframing thoughts,
- not responding to thoughts and emotions,
- healthy coping mechanisms,
- and the origins of their behavior
A therapeutic boarding school will help them build community
Because one of the primary reasons teens commit a crime is intergenerational patterns/trauma and social isolation, therapeutic boarding schools will focus on your teen building their social skills. They’ll find that other teens in the schools don’t only understand how they feel but also on the same boat.
In addition to this, their teachers, mental and behavioral health professionals, and other school staff will cultivate a deep sense of connection and significance. Your teen will learn that others are interested in their story: their struggles, triumphs, interests, and dreams.
A therapeutic boarding school will address underlying substance abuse and mental illnesses
Simply providing a community is not enough, and this is something therapeutic boarding schools recognize. That’s why underlying issues such as substance abuse and mental illness are often addressed at the same time as new and healthy values and beliefs are
As you look through schools for your child, make sure to help them recognize that you are not targeting them; you’re trying to address unhealthy beliefs, values, and behaviors. At Help Your Teen Now, we can help you find the right school for your troubled teen.