Military School for Troubled Teens: Expectations VS Reality

Military school is often the first thing people think of as a solution for a teen who is rebellious, belligerent, and disrespectful. They picture a drill instructor yelling at a surly teenager until the teen finally changes his ways and becomes a better person. However, military schools and boot camps have been glorified in part to Hollywood. In fact, there are alternatives that Help Your Teen Now specializes in aligning families with to fit their teen’s specific needs.

The Goals of Military Schools

What people don’t realize is that military schools are not meant to help troubled teens – those with emotional, psychological, or behavioral problems. Military schools were established to provide teens with a well-rounded education and to prepare them for college, a military academy, or future careers in the military or in civilian life. These schools have high academic expectations and emphasize structure, discipline, and responsibility. They do not offer help for troubled teens.

Teens who are interested in joining the service will experience what life is like in the military, from uniforms to marching drills, to physical training, and military-style discipline. Graduates don’t always enter the service, but they learn skills for future success, including teamwork, leadership, and self-discipline.

If a teen is a bit unfocused, disorganized, or easily distracted, a military school can be a good place for them to learn what it’s like to live a highly-organized life, adhering to schedules and following rules. Students are held accountable for their behavior and performance. They are taught the value of personal character, honor, respect, hard work, cleanliness, and self-control, and teamwork. And, yes, they also experience what it’s like to have a drill instructor yelling them.

Military Schools and Troubled Teens

However, if a teen has emotional, psychological, or behavioral problems, a military school will not help them and may cause more harm. The focus in military schools is on obeying the rules and punishing students who don’t. Discipline is confrontational and sometimes harsh. Troubled teens may complete a military school or boot camp program by submitting to the rules, but they don’t necessarily internalize the concepts that bring about true change.

Better Options for Troubled Teens

A better option for troubled teens is a residential treatment center or therapeutic boarding school. These facilities still provide a structured and controlled environment, with discipline, and a focus on accountability. However, they also offer individualized therapy to help students understand why they feel and act the way they do, and how to cope with negative emotions, and change bad behaviors. They help teens to cope with their emotional, psychological, or behavioral problems.

Long-lasting change comes from within, rather than from the outside. Often teens will revert back to their former behaviors when they are no longer under the strict controls of a military environment. Discipline at a therapeutic boarding school is focused on positive reinforcement rather than punishment. Teens are held accountable for their choices. They are given more privileges for good behavior and denied privileges when they don’t follow the rules. They learn that choices have consequences, and they learn to make better choices.

Family counseling is part of the program at a therapeutic boarding school. Students are also taught life skills and relationship skills. They live and work together in a family setting and participate in group therapy. Academic programs are often individualized, and teachers are experienced in helping students with learning problems.

Students participate in physical activities and sports and help with community projects. Some schools offer outdoor activities like camping, hiking, kayaking, swimming, or skiing. While military schools focus on strict training and discipline, therapeutic boarding schools focus on healing. Parents need to make sure they are making the right choice for their teens.

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