Are Military Schools A Good Choice for Troubled Boys?
Updated and validated: July 17, 2020 by Staff Writer
Is your teenager acting in ways that frighten you or make you worry about his future? When boys, especially teenage boys, start acting rebellious, screaming at their parents, slamming doors, locking themselves in their rooms for hours, or even disappearing without you knowing what they are doing or with whom. Many parents think it may be time for military school as a way to reign in their troubled boy.
Military Boarding Schools Do Not Accept Troubled Teens
Military boarding schools, military schools, or military academies are educational institutions intended to help young men and ladies for academic success, character development, and college prep for those who want to become officers and leaders in the US military. The goal of military school is to develop our future leaders.
Our common misconceptions about military boarding schools are based on movies and TV shows like The Sopranos and other movies that show military academies as punishment or threats for out of control teenagers.
The Difference Between Military Schools and Military Style Teen Programs
Military-style programs designed to rehab troubled teens was a concept born in the early 1970s when the juvenile justice system needed a system that can address the rising rates of juvenile delinquents and provide an alternative to the overcrowded jails.
Boosted by the significance of discipline as a principal method of managing children, by the 1980s, military schools and boot camps have become a popular solution for rehabilitation of troubled teenagers and at-risk youth and for parents wanting to give their misbehaving kids an education in discipline and obedience.
However, the problem with these solutions is that these military-style programs boot camps, military schools, military wilderness programs, etc. are proven not effective in dealing with teenage issues.
You can find some military schools for troubled youth when you search online, you’ll notice some troubled teen boarding schools use words like “military-style discipline” or “military-style programs” or “military structure” in their promotional material. They do this to appeal to parents who are seeking help for their troubled teens. You should know that these schools are privately owned with no association with US military schools. These are not high-quality education preparatory programs.
Are Military Style Programs Effective?
According to various research made into the subject starting in 2001 until recently in 2009, long-term military schools and short-term troubled teen boot camps do not directly address the unique requirements of children and teenagers with real behavioral, emotional and psychological problems. Thus, they have never been effective in fulfilling any of their stated goals.
That is because these programs are designed to administer discipline, order, and structure, and never therapy. For example, troubled boys suffering from various forms of depression will need proper intervention methods such as therapy and counseling, rather than a “yell in the face” or swift “kick in the groin” to learn how to manage themselves better.
The same goes for kids suffering from behavioral issues such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD/ADD) and oppositional defiant disorder; these kids do not need a military model to learn how to behave.
In 2007, Jaime E. Muscar, associate with King & Spalding’s Tort Litigation Practice, conducted investigative research regarding military-style programs’ effectiveness in dealing with troubled teenagers and at-risk youth.
She found out that not only the antagonistic, in your face military model, is counterproductive and only negates rehabilitation and treatment efforts of the school; it is also a system very open to abuse. Her studies have shown how a military model can pose a threat to its participants’ safety, of which could cause permanent damage on them.
According to Muscar, this highly confrontational nature is why it should not be used in the juvenile treatment system.
Deciding on a Military Boarding School for Your Troubled Youth
Most military school graduates’ primary objective is to attend a military college to get their degree. Military schools are “college preparatory schools” and prepare their cadets for a military career. Some require you to serve in the military after graduation. The best known military school is the USMA, known as West Point.
Military schools accept 9 to 20 percent of applicants. Applicants must pass physical and mental health exams. Most schools require candidates to pass the Candidate Fitness Assessment and require a 3.6 avg. GPA. The average costs of military school are $35,000 per year. There are some scholarships available.
Graduates from military schools include former Presidents, Senators, and many astronauts and high ranking military leaders. Children attending military schools are expected to achieve military excellence.
When deciding whether a military-style education is what your child needs, you should look past your anger and frustration and correctly identify the underlying issues that your troubled boy faces.
Does Your Troubled Boy Need Military School Discipline or Therapy?
You should be able to honestly answer whether your child really needs discipline, not therapy, because most probably, what he truly needs is a residential therapeutic environment where he can learn coping techniques that will allow him to manage himself better.
If you do enough research, you will likely find that military-style programs have been proven not at all effective in treating the deep-seated emotional or behavioral problems that a troubled teenager might face.
If you still feel that your child needs the tough love approach in order to learn how to behave, make sure that the school you choose has the right facilities to meet a troubled boy’s needs. Make sure the school is appropriately accredited, the teachers certified and qualified, and, better yet, licensed to award a high school diploma.
Beware of schools advertising as military schools for troubled teens or troubled youth. These schools are privately owned, and tuition costs range anywhere from $25,000 to $50,000 per year while some are higher.
These troubled boys schools use many “military terms” in their advertising, which can be very confusing for parents. If you are ever in doubt, ask them to provide more information. Please remember, if your child struggles with mental health issues a residential treatment program or a therapeutic boarding school is a better option.