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 schools or boot camps for teens 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
This can sounds ideal for parents who want all these things for their troubled teenage son. However, it is not that simple.
Does My Child Need to Attend a Military School?
A military school can be a great option if the parent and student are interested in discipline, structure, intense academic training and military service. These schools are not for students struggling with behavioral, emotional or academic issues. The focus of these schools is not to reform struggling youth.
Parents can choose to send their children to military schools, but they should be aware of the needs of their child before doing so. Parents of troubled teens or struggling youth should instead look into alternative schools, including boarding schools for troubled teens and residential treatment centers. These facilities have staff and programming in place to help your child.
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 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:
- 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 for troubled teens 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 for kids 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:
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 for teens. 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 for kids 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.
What Boot and Military Camp Alternatives Are There for Troubles Teens?
The two main alternatives to boot camp and military camp for boys are residential treatment centers and boarding schools for troubled teens. Both programs address the root causes of emotional and behavioral issues through academics, recreational activities and therapy with licensed individuals. Alternatively, boot camps and military camps focus on discipline, academic rigor and military service.
Neither military schools or boot camps for kids are suited to help a troubled teen heal. Struggling youth need to attend a program where they can get the help they need. We do not recommend military camps or boot camps for teens who need therapy, academic support or rehabilitation. However, there is another option.
- 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.
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