From the moment a boy steps foot on the ranch, he is greeted warmly with an enthusiastic, “We are really happy to meet you.” Each young man who makes his way to Arivaca Ranch is considered to be “the greatest young man alive.” We start with this view of the greatness of each young man, his potential, and his value as a human being, and... we never stop that view.
All of us have a little rebellion in us. We just do not like being told what to do. When we are asked to take out the garbage in the middle of something we are doing, we stiffen just a bit. Then we pause and remember the relationship and we take out the garbage. If we don’t, we know there might be a price to pay (maybe no dinner tonight) and decide to conform to the request.
With young people, the parental-child relationship isn’t viewed as that important in the moment, so we (parents) often add a little more deterrent –like –“you will be grounded if you don’t take out the garbage.” With most young people, that works. With some young men, it doesn’t. We then raise the stakes, looking for just the right punishment to get the job done. Again, often it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes there is that strong-willed, independent (great qualities to have) young man who just doesn’t want to be pushed, forced, or give up his independence. He looks straight at you and says, “I DON’T CARE! Go ahead and ground me, take away the car, I don’t care!”
Now what? You’ve lost the battle, the power struggle, perhaps your son. To exercise his independence, he continues to make his own choices that go against everything you believe to be good and right, which might include him doing drugs, alcohol, choosing poor friends, etc..
Arivaca Ranch refuses to enter into this struggle with the young man. We do not want to invite resistance. We let the young man know that no one can make him change. Doing well is a choice that only he can and will make when he wants to. We know that all we can do is have influence, and influence only happens when the young man trusts and respects us.
Change has to be and will be his decision, as it should be. Temporary compliance based on our threats or punishment is just that, temporary. Only when he decides to change and become compliant will the change be permanent. It is his choice. At Arivaca Ranch, we place the young man in an environment where he makes choices. His choices are somewhat limited, and bad choices that he makes at the ranch will not ruin his life. We let him make those choices, good or bad, in an environment that produces natural consequences. He finds out for himself that good choices make life better, and bad choices make life harder. With the use of a unique form of equine therapy (training his horse), he discovers these principles. We do not engage him in negative ways, inviting resistance. We don’t fight or argue. We let his horse teach him. We teach him. We inspire him and let him watch other boys who lead by example. Eventually, we hear phrases like, “Hey, do you think if I start doing well in school, I will be able to join the AirForce?” or “do you think if I work hard on work projects I can go on the overnight ride next month?”