Military Schools & Boot Camps For Boys

Parents struggling with a troubled teenage boy may feel they are out of options. When dealing with an out-of-control youth, they may decide that their son needs to go to either a military school or boot camp to help them move back on track.

Hollywood portrayals of these two environments have skewed reality. In the interest of helping parents fully understand their options, we will cover just what military school and boot camp are and what parents can expect if they send their son to one of these establishments.

Disclaimer: While we will be covering both military schools and boot camps, Sundance Canyon Academy does not recommend these resources for troubled teens who need therapy. We advocate therapeutic boarding schools and residential treatment centers in the cases where boys need intensive therapeutic help.

What Is Military School?

Military schools are private academies which focus on military-based discipline and structure to produce results. Most of these schools are not co-ed and only accept male students. Many attendees do go on to military service, with several elite military schools allowed to propose candidates for military colleges, such as West Point.

The majority of these schools are boarding schools, which can become expensive when the cost of tuition, room, and board are all totaled. Payment is required before your son attends and there is no reimbursement if he expelled from the school.

Military schools focus on several points:

  • Academic achievement
  • Structure and discipline
  • Patriotism
  • Leadership

This can sounds ideal for parents who want all these things for their troubled teenage son. However, it is not that simple.

Military Schools & Boot Camps For Boys


Circumstances In Which Military School Is Not A Good Option For Your Teen

Admission to military schools is difficult, as these programs are very selective about who they admit into their programs. While a few of the 66 military schools in the U.S. accept troubled teens, most do not. Many of these schools make it clear that their mission does not include problematic teens. Your son will not be admitted into military school if he needs these things:

  • Therapy – While it is likely they have counseling staff to care for the day-to-day needs of students, military schools do not have the staff to deal with long-term behavioral modification cases or other disorders.
  • Rehabilitation – Military schools do not have substance abuse experts as part of their staff. As their programs are demanding both academically and physically, they expect their students to enter their schooling ready to immerse themselves.These schools also do not work with criminal reformation. While a criminal record is not an automatic disqualifier, there is a high likelihood they will not accept a boy who has committed a violent crime. Military schools prioritize the protection of their students and do not have staff trained to deal with violent offenders.
  • Punishment – Boys should not be sent to military school as a punishment. Unwilling boys may not be able to acclimate to the rigorous environment and fail out of the school. Also, military schools are not containment facilities, so if the troubled youth wants to run away, it would be more possible from a military school than a facility designed for troubled boys.Military school can be ideal for the right candidate. While they are not right for troubled boys, for the young man who wants a future career with the military and has a high drive to succeed, these private academies would be a good option.

What Is Boot Camp?

Boot camps for troubled teen boys espouse a similar packaging to military schools but is a completely different experience. These programs have more variable lengths, anywhere from weeks to years. A fairly standard length is between 3 – 6 months, which does make these programs cheaper than other programs for troubled boys. However, it is hard to say exactly what an average boot camp is as boot camps are wildly unregulated.

There are boot camps specifically for incarcerated juveniles, which are not open to parental enrollment. For the ones that allow parental enrollment, boot camps focus on:

  • Discipline
  • High activity
  • Behavior modification

While these points are likely to be important to a parent of a struggling teen, parents need to consider some of the potential issues with boot camps.

When Not To Choose Boot Camps

As there are few to no regulations regarding the running of boot camps depending on the state the camp is located, this can result in dangerous situations for the participants.

In 2005 alone, 33 states with boot camp programs reported that 1,619 staff members of boot camps were involved in incidents of abuse. Mind, that is how many staff members were abusing children; that number does not identify how many children were abused. As the programs parents can enroll their children in are considered private organizations, it is difficult to find more concrete information.

You should NOT choose a boot camp for your struggling teen son if he has these needs which cannot be met at a boot camp:

Therapy – While some boot camps claim the discipline and high activity act as therapy, nothing is a substitute for therapy when the teen needs it. If your teen is struggling with a mental or mood disorder, pursue a more therapeutic environment than a boot camp.

Physical limitations – If your son has any physical limitation, it would be unwise to enroll them in a boot camp program. These programs depend on participants following a regimented schedule involving manual labor and physical exertion. Punishments involve more physical exertion.

Academic support – As these programs operate on a variable schedule, but usually, over the course of weeks, there is no academic component to boot camps.

Rehabilitation – For teens who have committed crimes, boot camps do not ensure lower recidivism. Male participants in boot camps experienced a recidivism rate of 52.81%. Boot camps force a short-term change in their program participants but do not address the issues which led to the negative behaviors.

As there is no clear way to identify which boot camps are free from abuse, we cannot recommend boot camps as an option for a troubled teen.

Military Schools & Boot Camps For Boys


If Not Military School Or Boot Camp, Where To Send Your Troubled Son

You know your son needs help but it can be hard to know where he would flourish. Neither military schools or boot camps are suited to help a troubled teen heal. However, there is another option.

By choosing a residential treatment center or therapeutic boarding school for your teen, you will be able to place your son in expert hands. At Sundance Canyon Academy, a troubled teen will receive:

  • Group and individual therapy
  • Individualized care plan
  • Continued schooling
  • Academic support
  • Experiential education opportunities

It can be difficult to send your child away, even when things become difficult. Know by choosing a therapeutic boarding school, you are choosing to help free your troubled son from a future of struggle.

Military Schools & Boot Camps For Boys

If Sundance Canyon Academy could help you and sounds like the right therapeutic boarding school for your troubled boy needs please call us at 866.678.2425

If you have any questions please contact us or review our FAQ Page

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