Troubled Teens and Military Schools by Sue Scheff

Some parents may have a teen they feel is in need of special attention needs. Often times parents look at the public school system and realize that it is not fully equipped to handle troubled teenagers. This leads many parents to turn to military schools as an option to discipline and educate their troubled teenagers. Unfortunately, it is a common misconception among many parents that military school can “cure” or somehow transform an unruly child into a model of propriety. Military schools, which seemed headed for extinction in the late 1960s and early ’70s, have seen enrollments increase steadily in recent years. Many military schools are jammed to capacity and sport long waiting lists, as anxious parents scramble for slots.

While parents may seek a military school with the hopes that it can provide exactly the discipline they believe their teenager needs, most military schools are seeking motivated candidates that want to be a part of a proud and distinguished institutional history. Many students do not realize they would enjoy military school until they actually visit the campus and understand the honor it is to attend. Typically, traditional military schools will not accept a student who does not want to be there; as such, it is very difficult to find a military school that will accept a teen that has a history of behavioral problems. Parents should realize that attending military school is a privilege and honor for the right candidate, and they are encouraged to emphasize this to their children as well.

The very common misperception of military schools as reforming institutions is a direct result of some states’ policies of having chosen to house their child (juvenile) criminal populations in higher-security boarding schools that are run in a manner similar to military boarding schools. These are also called reform schools, and are functionally a combination of school and prison. They attempt to emulate the high standards of established military boarding schools in the hope that a strict structured environment can reform these delinquent children that have often times run afoul of the law. The results of these institutions vary, and successful reform may or may not be the case, depending on the institution and it’s “students.” Popular culture sometimes shows parents sending or threatening to send unruly children off to military school, and this reinforces the incorrect, negative stereotype.

However, military programs for troubled teens do exist; these specialized military schools can provide the most effective ways to teach your teenager how to be a respectable, hard-working, and responsible human being. Keep in mind, however, that these military schools, like their counterparts, are not for punishment; they are a time for growth. Many are privately run institutions, though some are public and are run by either a public school system (such as the Chicago Public Schools), or by a state. Regardless, this should not reflect on the long and distinguished history of military schools; their associations are traditionally those of high academic achievement, with solid college preparatory curricula, schooling in the military arts, and considerably esteemed graduates.

Many ADD/ADHD students do very well in a military school or military academy-type setting, due to the structure and positive discipline. Many parents whose children have been diagnosed ADD/ADHD have considered this type of environment, and found it to be beneficial to their child’s development. In these instances many times parents will start by enrolling their child in a summer program to determine if their child is a viable candidate for that particular military school. Provided the child responds in a positive manner, they can extend the enrollment to subsequent terms.

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