What Is Military School Like vs. Boarding Schools For Troubled Teens

If your teen is experiencing troubles, you might be considering sending him to military school or a boarding school for troubled teens. But how do you know which type of school is best for your child? Here are some factors for parents to consider when choosing between a military school and a therapeutic boarding school.

Independence & Discipline

Both military schools and boarding schools work to help your teen build independence and instill discipline in him. They adhere to strict schedules and there are penalties for being late or missing appointments. However, students at military schools generally have far less "free time" than do students at other boarding schools.

Academics & Careers

Both types of schools have high standards for academics and excellence is stressed, but they tend to differ in what they prepare your son to do after graduation. Both types of schools provide academic backgrounds for higher education. When attending a military school, the students have the additional option of pursuing a career in the armed services. On the other hand, some boarding schools may employ guidance councilors and staff that help your teen to adapt for non-academic aspects of collegiate life. Additionally, in some religious types of boarding schools, a student can opt for a career in the church.


It's very important to consider what type of values you wish to instill in your teen. These values should be compatible with the rest of your family life. The value systems of military schools align with the particular branch of the service they represent (e.g., Marines, Air Force). As a result, your teen will be expected to participate in events that display those military values, like parades. Boarding schools, however, can represent a much wider range of value systems, coming from a particular religion, political, or philosophic viewpoint. For example, a Quaker boarding school might encourage outdoor excursions and the arts more than a military school would.


A major difference between military schools and boarding schools for troubled youth is that boarding schools are well suited to provide therapy for teens who need it, as well as addiction recovery, and other troubles. Military schools aren't equipped to handle kids who need psychiatric care so they will often deal with troubled teens by expelling them instead of helping them. Additionally, therapeutic boarding schools can specialize in particular areas where students experience difficulty -- for example, drug addiction or ADHD.


It follows that therapeutic boarding schools are staffed with people who understand what your teen is going through and are trained to help him recover. It's not uncommon for boarding schools to have various psychiatrists, social workers, or other trained professionals on staff. Military schools, on the other hand, depend entirely on the military chain of command to instill discipline.

Voluntary Attendance

Most military schools won't accept involuntary enrollments for students so if your teen doesn't wish to go they won't force him to attend. Additionally, many military schools will expel kids who don't obey the rules. Boarding schools, on the other hand exist precisely to instill rule-abiding behavior and have hired staff who specialize in helping your teen to get back on track rather than kicking him back out onto the street.

While at first it may seem that the terms "military school" and "therapeutic boarding school" are the same, they are actually quite different. So make sure you choose the type of school that will best serve your child's needs.

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