Boot Camps vs. Military Schools for Your Troubled Teenager

For many years, the specter of sending a troubled kid off to military school has always been considered the last resort when a teenager is such a problem that parental discipline no longer works. Hollywood has taken that concept and used it often in TV shows and movies. Perhaps the most dramatic movie about military school is “Taps” starring Sean Penn and Timothy Hutten. While an excellent movie, that Hollywood representation of what value parents can look for in the military school option may not be accurate.
What many people think of as military school could really be what teen boot camps accomplish with the programs they have to offer. There are significant differences between a military school and a teen boot camp. Those differences focus on the objectives of each institution and the kinds of programs they use to accomplish those goals with the teenagers that come to them. By understanding those differences, you can make an intelligent choice about which program is best for your youngster.

The Goals of Military School

It is a misconception that a military school has a mission of taking troubled teenagers and “fixing them”. As the name implies, a military school is there to take young people who have a good chance of being successful in career in the military and giving them the chance to get started early learning how to work within the structure of a military unit.

The perfect candidate for a military school is a teenager who feels a strong attraction to military life and wants to get started early on a military career. With very few exceptions, military schools will turn away applications for teenagers that are troubled, rebellious and in need of correction. In short, military school is not a good option to stop a teenager from getting in trouble with the law.

It pays to understand the real objectives of a military school because the potential losses for parents are significant. Like most private schools, military schools are expensive. Because your teenager will live on campus all of the time, when room and board is added to tuition and other enrollment fees, that can add up into a very significant investment. Be very sure when sending your child to military school because most institutions of this nature have a discharge policy that is quite strict.

That means that if the school discharges a student, there are no refunds. And since costs are paid in advance, that means if you send your teenager to a military school because you think it will straighten him out and they send him home, you lose the entire cost of that semester’s schooling.

The Goals of Teen Boot Camps

For a teenager who has had problems with the law or is “at risk”, a teen boot camp is a better choice than a military school. There is a lot of variety in the way teen boot camps are structured. But the goal of taking a troubled teen and turned him or her around through a rigorous boot camp experience is the same from boot camp to boot camp.

A traditional teen boot camp takes on many of the traits of the military training where the name originates. The attendees will wear uniforms, answer their superiors with “yes sir” or “no sir” and march from place to place with other teenagers in the program. Your teenager will go through the boot camp training with a group of other attendees and that group will sleep in barracks in bunks, eat and train together.

A boot camp experience will be a dramatic change of lifestyle for any teenager who goes through the program. There will be a drill sergeant who will impose a fast paced schedule of discipline and physical training and his or her style will be loud, uncompromising and “in your face”, so to speak. There is no room for disobedience or defiance and any attempts to rebel are treated harshly so the teenager is corrected and returned to training quickly.

Making a Choice

By way of comparison, both military school and teen boot camps have a military orientation. Both teach their students a life of discipline, focus and achievement.  Both will represent a striking change of lifestyle for most teenagers. And if the teenager who is put in either institution is right for the program, both can do their students a tremendous amount of good.

The value of a military school for any teenager who qualifies for their programs is that they prepare their students to be successful later on as they pursue a career in the military. The “child” you send to military school will come back much more mature, disciplined and with a military orientation that will serve him or her well when the time comes to pursue a military career when he or she is older.

Military school is generally a longer commitment than a teen boot camp. Very often, your teenager will go away to a school that can be hundreds of miles away for months at a time. By comparison, teen boot camps may last for a few weeks or months but once the program of intense training and reorientation is done, your child returns to you a changed person.

Because the objectives of a teen boot camp are narrower, they are often less expensive than sending a teenager to military school. Teen boot camps can be found in most states, which means you do not have to send your youngster a long distance. That saves cost and makes transportation easier to and from the boot camp.

Moreover, because a boot camp is a life changing experience, friendships formed at camp often endure. So if the camp is local, that can not only change  your teenager dramatically, it can give him or her a new peer group of other teens who all share the common experience of going through a very tough and life changing boot camp experience.

The final decision about whether to take advantage of a military school or a teen boot camp must be driven by what you goals are for your teenager. If the young person is preparing for a military career, enrollment in a military school is an outstanding choice.

However, if your teenager is troubled or at risk and this step may be your last resort, a teen boot camp is the best choice of the two educational concepts. If you chose well and do your research, you will find a program that will give your teenager just the right next step in their path toward success in life.

Here are additional resources you might be interested in:

Boot Camps for Troubled Teens – Take action to help discipline your child

Should a naughty kid be sent to a boot camp for kids?

Turning Winds: A first class boot camp for a problem children