We have three basic types of students at EJ:
• Entitled, self-absorbed, rude, out of control
• Socially backward, awkward, oblivious to the needs of others
• Adopted, disconnected from adoptive parents, and out of control
With all three basic types comes a wide variety of acting out behaviors, such as:
• Substance abuse
• Refusal to follow family rules or social norms
• Running away
• Poor academic performance and truancy
• Oppositional and defiant behaviors
• Lack of motivation
• Poor work ethic
• Hyper-focus on video games, internet, social networking, text messaging
• Self-mutilating behaviors
• Sexual promiscuity and acting out
• Unresponsive to parental influence
The parents of our students are usually highly successful people who have spent their lives mastering the basic principles which have enabled them to be successful: hard work, dedication, sacrifice, self-discipline, educational advancement, paying attention to detail, nurturing relationships, and “playing by the rules.” You grew up having to learn these principles from an early age and became successful because you really didn’t have other options. Nobody was there to do it for you, and if you wanted something you had to work for it. You suffered. You sacrificed. You went without things you didn’t need. You planned ahead. You worked hard. You paid your dues. And, there were some days you just wanted to quit, but quitting was not an option. You learned from your mistakes with sustained effort and continued dedication, you became successful.
When your children came into your life, you loved them. You raised them to have the same values and skills you have. You taught them well, but for some reason they just didn’t seem to get it. When they became adolescents things got worse, even catastrophic at times. You have tried every resource you could think of to make things better with some minor success but with no significant impact on their behavior. The behaviors they engage in absorb all the family resources. You spend all of your time trying to intervene, manage, clean up, and just survive your child’s out of control behavior. Your child is the center of attention and focus all of the time. There is no time to focus on the other children, work, marriage, vacation, or anything else for that matter. You and your spouse have had arguments and disagreements about how to manage the child. You may have even separated or divorced as a result. You have felt angry, depressed, hopeless, and anxious. You have lost sleep. You worry constantly. When the phone rings your stomach tightens and you have an overwhelming sense of dread. You feel like you are losing your mind, and you will if things don’t change.
Does any of this sound familiar?
So how did this happen? You played by the rules. You taught your children the right things. So why didn’t they learn it like you did?
In the treatment world there are many fancy and technical terms for disorders which try to explain why our children don’t seem to understand the things parents teach or to be able to control their behaviors, and sometimes these disorders are the exclusive cause of the problem or impact the problem- sometimes. The truth is that most successful parents, as a result of their success and their hope that their children can have a better childhood and life than they had themselves, provide well for their children, ensure their needs are met, and provide many opportunities for success that didn’t seem to be present in their own lives. They don’t want their children to suffer. They don’t want their children to graduate from the “School of Hard Knocks.” They make it too easy for their children. Their motive is pure but their method is flawed. And, besides, the youth of today don’t play by the same rules as the youth of your generation.
Remember how you got to be successful? Hard work, sacrifice, dedication, doing without and not having any other option but to make correct choices. Your children will get to be successful by following the same formula, but in modern society the elements of this formula aren’t as readily available as they were when you were building your life. We live in a world of convenience, fast food, microwave ovens, escalators, stores stocked with everything we could possibly need or want, and riding lawn mowers. When you were growing up most of these things didn’t exist or were not easily accessible. You earned your keep and made your success the hard way- through hard work, sacrifice, dedication. You get the point.
The solution comes by allowing your children to gain the insight, knowledge, and skill you did in much the same way. Equine Journeys is a treatment program and a working ranch. Our students receive the best possible treatment for any of those fancy and technically named mental health disorders which may be contributing to the problem by qualified and high trained therapeutic staff, but the best part is the working ranch piece. As mentioned above, the environments which provide some of the best opportunities to engage in the elements of success aren’t readily available to parents in the larger metropolitan cities and areas which have become the centers of American commerce (the places you live in order to remain viable in your trade). Life in the city has too many easily accessible conveniences and access to too many distractions and technologies. These technologies have even removed the need to speak face to face or even voice to voice. The youth of today have just about lost the ability to have meaningful and personalized conversations with others because of texting and other methods to bypass fundamental human relationship skills. Basically, there are too many opportunities for shortcuts, and very little has to be done the “hard way,” but remember, it was the “hard way” that got you your success.
At Equine Journeys our students don’t have access to television, Ipods, internet, video games, drugs, alcohol, Facebook, cell phones, text messaging, fast food, malls, parties, negative peer pressure, or a fast pace. They have to slow down and focus on what is most important. They have to focus on hard work, responsibility, accountability, dedication, and sacrifice, because the horses, cattle, and crops have to be managed and cared for and don’t permit shortcuts.
Our students, through their relationships and bonding with their horses, learn to care about something more than themselves and become willing to make personal sacrifices in order to ensure their horse and stock are well cared for.
Our students learn the value of hard work and forward thinking because they don’t have access to shortcuts. They have to earn their own money in order to have things other than the basic necessities. They learn to do without all of the technologies and conveniences which have previously permitted them to shortcut their growth and learning. They learn that being polite, courteous, and cooperative creates more opportunities for success than being pushy, demanding, entitled, and rude. They learn how to “play by the rules.”
At Equine Journeys we are not so grandiose as to believe that young people cannot become successful and develop the attributes of success without having a ranching experience, but for those youth who just can’t or won’t respond, the ranch is the perfect place to get things rolling in a positive direction. The Equine Journeys experience is challenging, the work is hard and done by hand, the days can be long, and working with livestock can be demanding, but the ultimate outcome is the mastery and possession of the elements and attributes of success- gained just the way you got yours- through hard work, sacrifice, going without, dedication, appreciation for small things because they weren’t always available and, best of all, not having any other choice but to be successful.