Defiant Kids: Is There a Good Alternative to Military School?

Posted June 15, 2009 by

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When we were kids, if my older brother acted out, invariably he’d get the, “If you don’t shape up, I’m going to send you to military school” speech from my dad. It’s a classic parenting response, (and a fate my brother narrowly escaped) but also an option that many parents consider every day. If you have a defiant, acting out teen or pre-teen, chances are you’re looking for an effective way to get your child back on track — and the thought of a military academy might have started to sound good.

Regardless of the circumstances, it’s never an easy decision to send your child away or to entrust their care to someone else. If military school is something you’re considering, there are a few things to keep in mind before making that commitment. For example, when I did a little research on the topic, I was surprised to learn that many schools won’t accept openly defiant, out-of-control teens. Also, realize ahead of time that if you send your son or daughter to a military academy and they drop out — or are asked to leave by the school — you will lose the tuition you have paid for that semester or that year. This is something to take into account before you send a teen or pre-teen to a school they might not be motivated to attend in the first place!

If you decide to go this route, another thing that counselors, teachers, and school administrators agree upon: have a plan in place when your child gets home. Make structure and accountability priorities in your house, so your child doesn’t slide back into his or her old habits.

One alternative to military schools can actually be that structured plan or program. I personally like the concepts behind Cognitive Behavioral Therapy-based programs best, because they focus on changing your child’s behavior  and thought processes first, rather than just on his or her emotions.

Check out what James Lehman, MSW has to say on the topic of emotions vs. behavior — this was one of those parenting “Aha moments” for me: “Many parents try to deal with their child’s emotions first because they believe that’s where the bad behavior is coming from. This focuses on the emotion, not the child’s thinking behind the behavior, which is what you really need to address.” (For more on this, read: Angry Child? Fix the Behavior, Not the Feelings” in EP.)

I’d like to hear from any parents out there who are considering — or who have sent their child — to military school. If you are considering it, why? How do you keep structure in place when they come home? And if not, what alternatives to military school have you tried so far?


Elisabeth Wilkins was the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 10-year-old son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood (Singapore), Hausfrau, The Bad Mother Chronicles, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.

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  1. Heather Moretz Report

    My 8 year old son has adhd. He was diagnosed with that when he was 5. He is taking medication for that. He has seen 2 different counselors bit neither has panned out. He is so very defiant to what me and his step dad tells him to do. He has hit his sister and kicked her. Smiles when he gets in trouble. Left class and school grounds. Told me he wished he had a good mom. When he gets angry he will smack his head or pull his hair. He gets up in the middle.of the night and messes throughout the house wakes his sister up in the middle of the night. Gets mad at me and my husband when we punish him. He lies all the time. He is so sneaky. At school he has smacked, kicked and pulled other kids hair. He has thrown I pads at school and even thrown one at another kid. This past summer he had got up in the middle of the night cut his hair and we even found a knife in his room. He went to one of his friends house and kicked their dog, threatened to hit the boy on the head with the shovel and even laughed when the boys mom had gotten on to him. He thought it was the funniest thing ever. Needless to say he does not go to a friend’s house now. This has caused me and my husband to argue quite a bit. I am so worried and scared for his future. We have tried everything and nothing has worked. We are at our wits end and it seems their is no end in sight. We have talked about military school that seems to be the only thing that will help. He is only 8 and this scares me to death. What will he be like when he gets in his pre teens and teens if this type of behavior doesn’t stop?

  2. JulieW Report

    My 14 year old has come from a broken home that includes a dad that physically abused him 1x (why we left) and emotionally abused our household for several years. He has a severely autistic non-verbal sister that’s 1 year older.  He dislikes/bickers with his step-dad non-stop over the past 5 years.  He has a step-brother and a half-sister.  His biological father lives the for the moment and has no goals and I see it trickling down.  My son has no respect for anyone but himself and has complete apathy for his future, his family and school.  Last year he ended with all F’s in a school system that doesn’t believe in holding kids back as a consequence.  This year he has started the same way.  The consequence is going to military school – as I’ve exhausted everything I have to put him on the right path.  We’ve done mental health, physical health, had him tested cognitively.. and it’s all boiled down to his choices.. nothing I can “fix”.  We’ve put the application in at St Johns Military School in Salina KS who offers scholarships.  This is my last ditch effort.

  3. Lost In Norcal Report

    My 11 year old son has ODD
    and I think a eating disorder. He’s physically violent with other kids and now
    hitting me.. He leaves the school grounds while class is in session, he talks
    back, sulks, is angry & depressed. He’s rude to his peers, can’t
    communicate his emotions or thoughts. He makes scenes so someone will call the
    police. We have lost control of any type of effective communication or
    consequence. We’ve had 2 IEP meetings & has been sent home 3 times for
    fighting.I had him in counseling, however have had a hard time finding
    resources in Solano county. I had him evaluated & they told me he doesn’t
    have ADHD, but ODD. He’s detached, solemn, head is down at all times, shoulders
    & back hunched forward when he walks, is very depressed. But he loves his
    11 month old baby sister with all his heart.That’s when my loving sweet son
    shows up. He has a good relationship with his grandparents but with myself
    & my husband it’s out of control & violent. That makes me worry about
    her safety too. We need help. Without help, I see him failing himself, his
    future & his hopes

    • Empowering Parents Coach drowden Report

      Lost In Norcal
      I can hear your worry and distress. It would be beneficial
      to find a professional in your area who can work with your son and your family.
      The 211 Helpline may be able to help you find the resources you are looking
      for. The Helpline is a nationwide referral service that can give you
      information on counselors, psychiatrists, support groups, and other programs.
      You can reach the Helpline 24 hours a day by calling 1-800-273-6222 or by
      logging onto Good luck to you and your family moving forward. Be sure
      to check back and let us know how things are going. Take care.

  4. Scaredmamma Report

    I have a 15 year old very bright son.  He has always excelled in school….middle school.  He has always been tough socially as he is quite introverted but found his niche with a group of nice kids in middle school.  His choice was to attend a private high school for boys.  He was placed in a handful of honor courses and some college prep courses.  He started out okay but since has decided he is NOT going to school …he does not HAVE to…his grades have fallen …he has alienated the friends he did have.  His anger has intensified when we, his parents ask him to do something or participate with the family.  He is disrespectful, ornery and is now getting somewhat aggressive in his behavior.  While I realize that teenagers test the waters my son’s behavior has gone above and beyond the testing.  He wants to be in control and at this point quite frankly he is.  He won’t get up for school…he won’t do what is asked of him….if we push the issue with stopping gaming or going to bed he becomes aggressive with by throwing a device, punching the wall or just screaming.  While I sometimes flip flop between he just being disrespectful to “maybe there is something wrong with him” i.e. anxiety…bi polar etc…I personally am at my wits end.

    His behavior is tearing the family apart.  I have tried to have him see a therapist….a few as a matter of fact and he refuses to participate and generally spends the hour staring at the floor.

    I love my son with all my heart and I want to just see him smile again….I don’t want to have another year of this behavior as I feel we as parents need to get him the help he needs even if it seems extremely harsh.

    Please help…give some guidance

    • Empowering Parents Coach Marissa Stephens, 1-on-1 Coach Report


      I am very sorry to hear about the struggles you are having
      with your son. I can understand why you are so concerned, given all of these
      rather sudden changes in his behavior. I’m glad to hear you have attempted
      local supports, even though it sounds like he does not want to participate. I
      would encourage you to keep that option available to him, as it can take a few
      sessions for some kids to open up.  His doctor may also be a helpful
      resource in determining if there is substance use, a mental health issue, or
      something else going on for your son. In the meantime, we would suggest picking
      just one or two of the most serious issues to focus on, so you don’t become
      overwhelmed.  Anger and aggressive behavior is one we would suggest
      prioritizing, as it can become unsafe if your son is throwing things and
      destroying property. Kim Abraham and Marney Studaker-Cordner, authors of The program, have a good article called,
      with some tips on addressing those angry outbursts.  I wish your family
      the best of luck as you continue to work on these issues with your son.

    • Krandl Report

      Omg! This sounds exactly like my 16 year old son. Except I’m usually the one throwing things. I am definitely curious as to what you are doing to help him.

  5. rwolfenden Report

    can be incredibly scary when your child is violent, destructive and threatens
    to kill herself and others when she is angry.  I strongly encourage you to
    first focus on ensuring everyone’s safety when your daughter has these
    outbursts.  It is important to take her threats to kill herself and others
    seriously, and I support her psychologist’s recommendation to use outside
    support as needed to keep everyone safe.  It’s understandable that you
    might feel reluctant to call an ambulance or have your daughter transported to
    a hospital when she is out of control.  It could be helpful to get more
    information on what that process might look like, and the steps involved. 
    I also hear that you are concerned that your daughter might lie to the hospital
    staff, or accuse you of being abusive toward her.  I encourage you to
    address these concerns with your daughter’s psychologist or local crisis
    response service.  Some communities also offer in-home crisis response
    teams, where a responder can come to your home to help your daughter calm
    down.  You can call the at
    1-800-273-6222 to get more information about available services in your
    community.  I recognize how challenging this situation must be for you and
    your family, and I wish you all the best as you continue to move forward. 
    Take care.

  6. Kelly abraham Report

    My daughter is 7 she acts like she is the boss in the house she is extreamly mean to her brother that is 4 when she is out of the house she is perfect and quiet but when she comes home she is a brat. Her being mean to to her brother has lead to a speech delay and he is getting help with this. I can’t get her to listen at all. Not sure what to do with her she was a good kid up till her brother was born.

  7. femjay1228 Report

    Omg…  Where do I start.  My ten year old Son’s behavior is what I would call deplorable.  He has gone outside the house and went into someone’s purse, stole a woman’s benefit card, and broke the card, he break a lot of stuff here at home, and when we (his father and I, or people in general)tell him what to do, he will defiantly say no, or he will start making loud shrieking noises like noooooo . Aaaaaaaaahhhhh!!!   I mean, we have received calls from his school all throughout the school year about his behavior.  And many of the calls, he can be heard making high pitched screams that sound more like shrieks.  Ugh.  I am at my wits end with this kid.  He has caused many arguments/fights between his father and I, and he will go out of his way to cause trouble, ony to lie about it, and even when I catch him in a lie, like today, his father will stick up for him.

    I thought I would feel bad saying this, but I don’t.  I have gotten to the point where I really despise the person he has become.  Sometimes he could be very loving, but other times, he is very violent, and destructive.

  8. RaychelleWoods Report

    I’m a single mom and have been most of my sons life. He is 9. I’ve kept him sheltered most of his life. I felt that wE the only way to protect him. Long story. We don’t have cable or anything. We watch dvds and vhs tape movies over and over. Mostly Disney toons. He has no violent games and is not around a bunch of idiots. He’s not out there fighting tearing stuff up stealing or anything like that. And sometimes he’s the best kid ever. But other times He’s really defiant towards me mostly and acts like he doesn’t have to listen and do what I say half the time and argues with me about it all. He’s like this with others to just not as bad. Its ridiculous and uncalled for. I just don’t know what to do anymore. Its a fight to get him to bed to get him up. I tell him to do something. He ignores me and either does the opposite or nothing at all. And usually argues with me. I’ve tried everything. Nothing works. He pushes every button he can and I’m at my wits end. I know if I don’t do something now it’s gonna be so much worse later. I’m not trying to use this as an excuse. But He has been diagnosed with add/adhd odd and not sure of the other. He takes meds. He’s been tested by the school for learning disabilities. They have said he has speech and a few other borderline learning problems. Math reading and ? And that it has him a year behind. He’s 9 but only in age. He’s really 9 with a 6/7 year old mentality and a 15 year old attitude most of the time. He has an IEP in school. If not for that he would’ve failed this year. Anyway Idk what else to do. PLEASE help. Idw to send my child off but I can’t keep on keeping on like this. Feeling lost

    • Empowering Parents Coach drowden Report

      We appreciate you writing in and sharing your story.
      From what you have written, the behavior your son is exhibiting sounds pretty
      normal. Most kids will exhibit defiance and backtalk when asked to do something
      they don’t want to do. It is frustrating to deal with as a parent, however. You
      may find linking task completion to earning his privileges to be helpful. You
      could also develop an for addressing issues related to his morning or bedtime routine. For
      example, he could earn a check or a sticker every time he gets up or goes to
      bed without a fuss and once he has earned a certain number of them, he would
      earn a reward.  You can find more useful tips for managing these stressful
      times in Megan Devine’s article . It’s going to be
      most effective to pick one behavior or situation to focus on at a time. It’s
      understandable you would be anxious to get everything under control at the same
      time. Unfortunately, that will probably be quite overwhelming and much less
      likely to be successful. It is going to be important to keep in mind the fact
      that your son has specific diagnoses. While certainly not an excuse for his
      behavior, it is still important to take in to account any thing that could
      impact his development. Your son can learn more appropriate behaviors; it just
      may take him longer than his peers. I hope this information is useful. Be sure
      to check back if you have any further questions. Take care.

    • everyone Report

      Hi, Raychelle you have just described my daughter the difference is that my daughter gets so angry that she slap, punches and hurts herself hitting the walls she’s 8 and she was diagnosed with ADHD as well, and like you I don’t know what to do she’s running my house, is like she’s the boss I have had children services in my house cuz when she’s angry and craying she make sure all the neighbors can she screams like she’s getting murder. I’m already going crazy and like I can’t do bathing more I just sit down and cry.

  9. missy Report

    I have a 16yr old son who defies me every chance he gets but can be sweet as pies on every other occasion. He feels guilty when he sees me crying in my bedroom when I’m at my wits end and will come and cry on my shoulder and say he doesn’t know why he does what he does and promise he will do better. Then the first time he has a choice to make, he will make the wrong one. He constantly lies, I believe he borders on some kind of disease with lying as I don’t even think he knows what’s the truth and a lie anymore. My husband and I have raised our children in a loving home and have tried to give them whatever they’ve wanted/needed and I realize that may be some of our issue as they’re spoiled kids, but our other two children do not act like he does. He is violent and aggressive with me and his younger siblings, though not with his father. I don’t even leave the younger children (12 and 11 years old) at home with him for any reason alone because I’m afraid they’ll argue and he’ll seriously Injur one of them. I don’t believe he would EVER do it on purpose but he gets so angry that he loses control and punches holes in walls, breaks things and punches his own hands. I’ve never witnessed such aggression in my life. I don’t know where it comes from. Earlier in the school year he got suspended for 5 days for beating up a boy who was 340lbs, he knocked him unconscious. He is 180lbs and about 6’0. The boy had hit him and I guess he thought that gave him the right to knock him out. Do you have any advice or help for me? Thank you in advance.

    • Empowering Parents Coach drowden Report

      We hear from many parents who are trying to manage acting
      out, aggressive behavior in their teens, so, you’re not alone. It can be tough
      to know what steps you can take to keep others safe and also help your child
      learn better ways of coping with frustration. Kids who lack effective problem
      solving skills often respond in inappropriate ways because they don’t know what
      else to do and, most likely, the aggression has worked for them in the past.
      So, until your son is able to learn different ways of responding, he may
      continue to act aggressively in situations he find frustrating or challenging.
      You can help him by not only holding him accountable with consequences but also
      having problem solving conversations with him during calm times. James Lehman
      has a two part article series on kids who act out aggressively that you may
      find helpful. You can find links to those articles here: & I
      hope you find the information in these articles useful for your situation. Be
      sure to check back if you have any other questions. Take care.

  10. shawna1000 Report

    i have a darghter 13years old dont listen to me she talk back to me she be fighting kids outside she try fight me back she ran away from home have call police she trying having sex getting out of hand dont know what to do need help

  11. Amandacorsbie Report

    I raise my 7 year old niece since she was 3 months old and about 4 months ago her decixded to come back and want to play ” Mom ” for a few days and now shes gone once again ! Now she is so defient and rude sneaky , she yells at me andmy husband. She is more than mean too my 19 month old son. She lies and lies and lies! Everything is a lie even if I ask her the color of her shirt its a lie ! I just don know what to do anymore , it is so frustrating ! she wont apply herself in school anymore either everyday I get a phone call. WHAT DO I DO ?????!!!!! P-LEASE HELP!

    • rwolfenden Report

      Thank you for
      writing in; your niece is so fortunate to have you and your husband as a
      stable, loving presence in her life.  Something to keep in mind is that
      most kids tend to thrive with stability and structure, and can have limited
      coping skills when that routine is altered.  From this perspective, it is
      not unexpected that she has started to act out after this visit.  That is
      not to say that what she is doing is OK, or that you cannot address what is
      going on, however.  It could be useful to continue to have clear rules and
      expectations for your niece, as well as about how she will follow those.  If she is acting out
      with your son, I would recommend limiting the amount of time that she is
      unsupervised with him as well.  Finally, it might be useful to work with
      local resources to help your niece to further develop her coping skills, as
      well as finding healthy appropriate ways to work through the various emotions
      which might arise with any future visits, as outlined in Julia Clark’s blog  If you are not currently working
      with anyone, the 211 Helpline can be a great place to start.  211 is a
      service which connects people with resources in their community, and you can
      reach them via their website at, or by calling 1-800-273-6222.  I
      recognize how difficult this situation must be for you and your family, and I hope
      that you will check in and let us know how things are going.  Take care.

  12. Worried and Lost Mom Report

    I am so going through the same thing. My son is a very big 10 year old (Looks 15). he is very smart and loving and caring when at school. When he gets home that sweet child becomes a horror. He is rude, defiant and aggressive. He get therapy weekly in and out of school. I no longer yell or scream but address all issue in a calm manner. He does have DX of ADD, Anxiety and ODD. ODD is his biggest issue. I am so lost at this point. Today he decided to run away into a field close to home. Took me 1 hour to get back to the house and another 20 minutes to get home to go to school. Guess what he had a great day at school according to the school nurse. I don’t get it…

  13. Donealready Report

    What if 2 adhd girls 12 and 7 have gotten better at school but not home? What if your children have been working with Psychologists and etc..the entire time but nothing gets better? I never see any answers to those types of questions? I also never see any true answers just read this, read that….I’ve read more than enough but nothing works!

    • Empowering Parents Coach drowden Report

      I hear you. It can be quite
      discouraging when your children seem to for you. This situation is all too common,
      so, you’re not alone in your frustration. The good news is the fact your
      children are behaving appropriately in school shows they do have the skills to
      deal with anger and frustration effectively. The task now is to help them
      globalize those skills to situations that occur at home. One way you can help
      with this is by having problem solving conversations with them separately during
      a calm time, as Sara Bean discusses in her article
      When having these conversations with your children, you might ask them what
      they do at school when they get upset. We all utilize problem solving or coping
      skills when faced with situations that make us angry, disappointed, or
      frustrated. As adults, these skills have most likely become second nature so we
      may not always recognize when they are being implemented. By helping your
      daughters recognize the times when they are coping with challenges effectively
      and appropriately, you’re also helping them learn how to use those skills at
      home. I hope this information helps to answer your questions. Be sure to check
      back and let us know if we can be of further assistance. Take care.

  14. Empowering Parents Coach drowden Report

    Jenna green
    It must be so hard to watch your family struggle with your
    sister’s acting out behavior. Unfortunately, one child’s choices can have a
    negative impact on everyone in the family. There is a great resource available
    for teens and young adults that may be able to offer you support to help you
    deal your sister’s out of control behavior.
    is a website staffed with counselors who are specially trained to help young
    adults through the challenges that can come up. They offer various ways of
    accessing help, such as an online forum, e-mail or text support, and a call-in
    Helpline. I encourage you to check out what they have to offer. We appreciate
    you writing in and wish you the best of luck moving forward. Take care.

  15. rwolfenden Report

    Worried and Lost Mom 
    It’s understandable that you would
    feel worried, scared and upset with your son’s behavior.  While certainly
    frustrating, it’s not uncommon for kids’  In a way, it
    can actually be helpful when this happens, because it shows that your son does
    know how to behave appropriately.  Rather than starting from the
    beginning, it becomes more a matter of teaching him to transfer those skills he
    practices at school to use at home.  I encourage you to continue working
    with the local supports you have in place, such as his therapist and home crisis
    services, to assist you in this teaching process, and to develop ways of
    holding him accountable for his behavior at home.  While I am not aware of
    specific programs offered in New Jersey, you might consider checking with his
    therapist and/or doctor about local offerings.  You can also check with NJ
    211, an information and referral service, about resources in your state by
    dialing 211 from your phone, or by going to  Thank you for writing in; please be
    sure to check back and let us know how things are going for you and your
    son.  Take care.

  16. VeryWorriedMom Report

    I have a 16 year old son who is very bright and a great kid in almost every way except in school.  He doesn’t do his work, he doesn’t study for his tests, and he says he doesn’t care if he gets bad grades.  I feel that I have done everything for him to succeed.  He has structure, consequences, time, etc.  I ask him every day to do his work, to pay attention in class, to study, but he still does not do it.  This has been going on since he was in 7th grade; he is now in 10th grade and is failing two classes.  What can I do?  I don’t know how to help him. Please help me.

    • rwolfenden Report

      It is a struggle for many parents when you have a child who is not
      working to his full potential in school, and does not seem to care about doing
      well in his classes.  It sounds as though you have done a lot of work to
      this point to help him succeed through giving him structure, consequences and
      clear expectations.  One additional piece you might consider adding is
      having a which outlines specific steps
      he will take to meet those expectations.  For example, what is his plan to
      complete his work?  What will his teacher see him doing that shows that he
      is paying attention?  It’s also going to be important to keep your focus
      on where you have control, and recognize what is ultimately up to your
      son.  You are not going to be able to “make” your son care about his
      grades or schoolwork, or make him implement the steps to help him to be
      successful.  These are areas where your son has control.  You have
      control over your own actions and choices, however, including how to hold him
      accountable for his actions.  For example, you might continue to implement
      consequences at home for his schoolwork, or you might step back and let him experience
      the of his actions.  I realize that
      this is a difficult behavior to address, and I appreciate your writing in for
      assistance.  Please be sure to write back and let us know how things are
      going.  Take care.

    • jozzie Report

      @VeryWorriedMom  sounds like my son years ago ,before they knew much about DYSLEXIA have him checked out,by 2or3 diferrent sources  first one told me nothings wrong ,my son is lazy ,and he will grow out of it WRONG!! I got answer through our local Assistance league ,it was all free then !! he is 43 now,still dyslexic ,but doing well..Been there done that!! JK

  17. Fearful mom Report

    I have a 15 year old son who will be 16 in february. He for the most part is a good kid. However, he has emotional outburst and has been known to break things. He will go to school but refuses to do the work required of him. He currently attends an alternative school and was recently put on independent study. Whenever I try to talk to him he shuts down and refuses to even talk about school or anything  all he says is “I don’t care!”. HIs teacher at school has been very helpful and understanding but I am at a loss. I do not know what to do. He only has two years until his 18th birthday and I fear that he is headed for negative things. I have been thinking about military school due to the lack of options for him. Ultimately he needs structure and guidance that I have been unable to provide. I feel that part of the problem stems from our broken home. His father was verbally abusive along with physical (not sexual) and his father is now serving 15 years in an Oklahoma state prison on drug charges. His father definitely has mental issues accompanied by drug abuse. I do not want my son to end up like his father. Due to all the abuse that had occurred I myself have a hard time with discipline. I am a single mom for the last 12 years, I have a 19  year old daughter that struggles with some of the same issues, and I have a 22 year old daughter who doesn’t struggle with any of the underlying issues, and a 2 year old granddaughter. All I want is for my children to be up standing adults and be able to care for themselves. My son is my youngest and I need help getting him the help he needs to be successful. Any advice or options will be greatly appreciated.

    • rwolfenden Report

      Fearful mom I understand how scared you
      must be feeling in witnessing this type of behavior from your son, given the
      path that his father has taken.  I would encourage you, though, to try to
      refrain from predicting a dire future for your son based on his current
      behavior, even with the example that his father set for him.  The truth
      is, when we… and try to
      predict the future, it can impact how effective we are able to be in present
      moment.  I would also like to point out that, even though you were unable
      to provide your son with structure or guidance in the past,
      to start doing things differently.  We recommend starting with one
      behavior at first; based on what you describe, it could be useful to work with
      your son to help him develop more effective coping skills than breaking things
      during times of high emotion.  This article could be helpful as you plan
      this conversation:…  Thank you for writing in and reaching
      out to us for support.  Please be sure to write back and let us know how
      things are going.  Take care.

  18. Report

    Hi so my kid does not do anything bad. Her grades are great and shes a wonderful girl. Her teachers love her and she has plenty of friends. She wants to go to military school, because she ants to be in the army when shes older. Is military school a way for her to train for the army? Shes in 8th grade right now.

  19. D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor Report

    To “lizarinny”: Thank you for writing in and sharing your story with us. You certainly are dealing with some challenges. I can hear how frustrated you are with feeling undermined and like you are the only one holding your son accountable. It can be exhausting to parent a defiant child on your own. There are a few programs available through Empowering Parents that help parents become more effective at holding kids accountable and teaching their children ways to make better choices. You can find a list of programs available, and brief descriptions of each, here: Total Transformation Programs . In the meantime, I encourage you to continue reading the articles on Empowering Parents. We have hundreds of articles that address everything from temper tantrums to teen attitude and oppositional defiant behavior. We wish you and your family the best as you continue to address these challenging behaviors. Take care.

  20. lizarinny Report

    I am the mother of a 13 year old boy that wakes with an “attitude” of defiance, argumentativeness and disrespect. I was a single mother from the time he was born until May of this year (2012). His father is involved in his life, minimally. He lets our son decide whether or not he wants to visit for the weekend, does not take him for longer than a week in Summer (and still works during the day), so doesn’t really “know” him. My son fears his father because he doesn’t know what to expect from him. His father also reinforces chasing girls, drinking (gives our son beer when he’s with him), and the “time” he spends with him is taking him to the VA Lodge he’s a member of. My husband sees the situation as “it’s not my kid, and not my place to discipline him”, thus, the only reprimands, discipline, influence in his life is ME! His grandparents are out of state, so not active in his life; family friends that I’ve known since I was 7 view him as their “adoptive” grandson, and give him anything he wants…as do most other close friends in my circle. Because I am the only disciplinarian, the only one that demands anything of him and the only one that holds him accountable for his actions, he simply sees me as “the bad” guy, and that I’m the only one that has a problem with his behavior; no one else gets onto him. He also has no sense of boundaries, no sense of value when it comes to possessions – everyone else in his life has taught him that if he breaks it, they will replace it; again, I don’t do that so I’m the bad guy and there’s something wrong with ME because I’m the only one. He feels entitled to the same material things as his peers and the adults in his life, as well as the same level of respect and consideration. Again, I’m the only one that tries to hold him to a level of accountability and “earning what you get”. I am the only disciplinarian in his life and I am constantly undermined, giving him a certain amount of leverage to just,simply, wear me down. I can only stand so strong when I am the only one standing up to him. I need help! HE needs help. He’s an A-B student, he seems to, somewhat, know how to act in social situations and other adults in his life, but his behavior at home is concerning. He is only 13 and I feel I’ve lost control; it’s only going to get worse as he gets older and bigger. He is beginning to be disrespectful of teachers and rules at school and views the detention punishments as “cool”. I want to nip this in the bud before it becomes a serious problem. What programs are available to try to get his attention and help me keep it?

  21. Mommyto3boyz Report

    I placed my son in a military school that is local to us. It is considered a public school. They work with at risk youth grades 6-12. My son goes regular school hours & is home every day. There is a teacher & behaviorist (military personnel) in every classroom. That way the teachers can focus on their jobs & there is some one to enforce the rules. The kids are cadets 24/7 I can call our email with any problems. My son had done good there. His grades have improved & so has his attitude. They also have a very strict no bullying policy.

  22. Sara Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor Report

    To ‘Mom of 4’: It’s so hard when you and your spouse are in disagreement. Where your son will attend high school is a pretty important decision to you. It sounds like you and your spouse do agree on some things. These areas of agreement can be a great place to start when making a decision like this together. You can talk to your spouse about each of your goals. Focus on the goals you agree on and talk about what you think is most likely to help your son meet these goals. Of course, if you are still seeing that counselor, it would be a great idea to get some input from that counselor, or your son’s school counselor or doctor, about what type of setting will benefit him most over the next 4 years. Ultimately, the decision about where to send him for high school will be up to the two of you. Here is an article with more information to consider when making this type of decision: Teenage Boot Camps, Wilderness Programs and Military Schools: Are They Effective? We wish you luck as you work through this. Take care.

  23. Mom of 4 Report

    I have a 14 year old son who is the youngest of four children. He was the perfect baby and an adorable toddler. Around the 2nd grade we noticed him becoming rather bossy on the soccer field, and then he was also defying authority in the classroom. As the years have gone by, he continues to be a “mr. know-it-all,” annoying, obnoxious, outspoken, disrespectful, etc. He is in all honors classes, but he doesn’t seem to care. A therapist has mentioned ODD to us. We notice that he responds to situations/teachers where there are definite expectations and rewards. He did attend a prestigious military boarding camp last summer, and did incredibly well. I would like to send him there for 9th grade, but my husband does not believe in sending him away. I would do anything for my children if it meant that they were as prepared as possible for adulthood. This son is incredibly bright and a natural leader, and I worry that staying home is not going to bring out his positive qualities. Being the youngest, he has had a lot more freedom in our household and lack of structure. He seems to gravitate to kids who are weak and not smart…I think b/c it makes him feel superior. I would love an opinion on what to do for 9th-12th grade. If he stays home, he will go to a private Christian school; however, I am worried that he will go in there and manipulate and defy like he already is. I feel that the military boarding school (it is not for problem kids…it is a regular school with a great reputation for instilling self-confidence and leadership). When my son attended last summer, he achieved so many goals and loved it. I have spoiled him all his life and he does not treat me well unless he wants something. Help!

  24. Sara A. Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor Report

    To ‘Heading it off?’: It sounds like you are feeling challenged by your son’s behavior and you are looking to improve your parenting skills. Learning new skills is a great first step in preventing future behavior problems (which you may or may not be able to do, by the way—you simply must continue to do your best and be empowered). It will be best for you to shift your focus from finding the consequence that’s going to change your son’s behavior to teaching your son the skills he needs to change his behavior. This can be done by having conversations about what your son can do differently to follow your house rules. Taking away all of your son’s privileges is not going to help you achieve your goal; in fact, it is often very demotivating to kids to lose everything for a long period of time. I am including some articles I think might be helpful. Enjoy, and please check back with us often!
    Do You Feel Like Your Child’s Behavior is Your Fault?
    Child Behavior Charts: How to Use Behavior Charts Effectively
    Kids Who Ignore Consequences: 10 Ways to Make Them Stick

  25. Heading it off? Report

    I have read your posts with interest and empathy.

    My husband & I are struggling with our 10 year old son’s behavior. It’s mostly to do with homework: he’ll ‘forget’ to bring it home, or lie about having done it. He is very passive-aggressive about it. Like many of your kids, he’s a smart kid, and the work is not a problem for him.

    We have tried punishment (by now, he has no access to TV, computer, or video games), and rewards. We have tried yelling and screaming.

    Nothing seems to help.

    I know these problems are minor compared to what a lot of the folks above are going through with their kids. But, unchecked, I could see my son heading down the same path in a few years.

    How can I prevent that? Are there any particular articles here that could help?

    FWIW, my husband is on board and we will be mutually supportive in whatever we decide to do.

    Oh, one thing I have to bite my tongue NOT to say is, “why can’t you be more like your sister?” [she is 15, self-motivated & responsible]

  26. Sara A. Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor Report

    To ‘wife of taxman’: It sounds like you are quite frustrated with your son’s behavior. I can understand your concern that he might revert back to this behavior after completing the military school program you mentioned. It is important that you ask the school several questions, including questions related to their outcomes. For example, what percent of kids change their behavior in the program and then maintain that change? What does the school do to help you as parents maintain the changes that occur in your child? You should look for a program or school for your son that includes the family as part of the solution, that does family therapy and parent training for example. If you change nothing at home, his behavior will likely go back to the way it was before. Ask your contact person at the school if they do follow-up after your child is discharged and what they will do if you start having problems again. It’s also helpful to ask if they have references you can check—are there other families who have successfully completed the program that are willing to talk to you and share their experience. Whenever any parent is considering placing their child outside the home, we recommend that you really do your research. Here is a Federal Trade Commission consumer guide I found that talks more about what questions to ask when you are choosing a program: Considering a Private Residential Treatment Program for a Troubled Teen? Questions for Parents and Guardians to Ask. I hope this helps.

  27. wife of taxman Report

    My son has not been in trouble and is not openly defiant. He is quietly defiant. He will tell me he is doing something and then not do it. When I tell he to do something he will openly tell me that he doesn’t need to do it right now. I try to talk to him and tell him he is hurting himself. He understands that but the logic escapes him. He currently has failing grades and is refusing assistance with tutors or therapy. I am contemplating sending him to a 5 week military program over the summer that will address academic issues as well. My concern is that when he comes home he will revert back to his old behavior. His home schedule can be structured but he will have to be the one to enforce it. I can remind him but am not a consistent enforcer because of other children and my work schedule. I would love others comments.

  28. Sara Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor Report

    Dear ‘Given up’: It sounds like you have really been dealing with a lot of difficult behavior issues with your son. I want to start off by saying that we commend you for getting him into a drug program. This can be a scary idea for parents but we call it being an empowered parent. When you’re feeling overwhelmed and in over your head it is always helpful to see what other kind of support is out there for you. Most states have a service called 211. 211 is an information and referral service run by the United Way. You can either visit the website or try dialing 2-1-1 from your phone (you have the best chance of it working from a land line). It’s possible that your state offers some alternatives to military school but you might also find some other services that can really help. We wish you luck. Don’t forget to take care of yourself, too.

  29. Given up Report

    My son has just about done it for me. He does drugs, slacks off in school, lies to me, and just about everything you can imagine. We have just done a program for his drug use that seems to have no effect on him, and my only other thought is to send him to military school, the problem is we don’t have the money. He deliberately disobeys me and I just don’t know what else to do anymore. Just tonight I confronted him, and now he had run out and turned off his phone. I just am so sick of this. I need HELP please!

  30. looking4options Report

    thanks for your message ‘rochesternative’. I looked into both the Civil Air Patrol and the Uncommon school system and they look like great programs. I don’t live in NY so I won’t be able to use the school system but there are branches of the Air Patrol in my area.

    You are lucky to have found a mentor for your sons. Boys do need a father figure and also, as many others mention it, and unified front when both parents are present. I just wanted to let others know that some organizations provide mentoring services such as the “boys and girls club”. The only problem is that they often have a waiting list that can be quite extensive. Another possibility someone once mentioned to me (but that I haven’t tried) is to recruit a young college student to spend some time with your son(s) after school. That student gets paid not to babysit but to keep him company and mentor him. You’d have to make sure you choose wisely though, doing a background check and get many references.

  31. Troubled Parent Report

    We sent our son to a residential facility, not military school as he really needs the intense therapy component that a residential program can provide. He is in a good program now but we made a mistake with our first placement and I want parents to know that this can happen so do as much homework as you can up front. We originally sent our son to a program in Salt Lake City, Utah and had a terrible experience. We were concerned that they could not handle a boy with our son’s issues (BPD traits) but they assured us that they could. Ten weeks later, they kicked him out of the program and abandoned him and us (his parents). They indicated that they didn’t he would still be having these BPD behavioral issues ten weeks into the program and couldn’t work with him. If we had known he was only on a ten week trial program we certainly wouldn’t have sent him there.

    Not only did they kick him out but they abandoned him with no support leaving us to scramble to find another placement ASAP. He had a bad weekend and they took him to the emergency room to admit him to the hospital psych ward because they couldn’t handle him. Then they called us up and said they wouldn’t take him back and we needed to figure out where to send him. We live across the country and so we scrambled to find him alternatives, toured those alternatives and transferred him after about a week. When we picked our son up at the hospital we were shocked to find that they didn’t even bring him a change of clothes or his glasses for the week he was in the psych ward. They didn’t even call to consult with the Dr. to see how he was or if they could give some input. They offered no help to us in figuring out the next placement for our son.

    This may be cynical but the program admitted our son when they had a lot of open beds and kicked him out when they were pretty full. Also, you would think they would at least compensate us for the extra expense we incurred to scramble to find him another placement plus part of the cost of the psych ward since he calmed down right away and the psych ward was just expensive baby sitting for the week. No…they didn’t refund a dime beyond our deposit. They stuffed his dirty clothes in his bags, had us pick them up and said good riddance. The management there does not appear to care much about the kids they care for – at least not once they kick them out and stop getting paid.

    So do your homework and good luck to you and, of course, your child.

  32. rochesternative Report

    I have seriously considered sending all three of my boys away to military school/therapudic care at one time or another. In spite of services in the community, therapy and medication I have really struggled. (Single parent, dad nowhere to be had)

    A couple of things have helped (although we are no where near where I would like to be)

    My oldest son is in the Civil Air Patrol, which is a branch of the Air Force. He hates to go, but loves it when he gets there (I think the anticipation is the part that is hard for him). The structure and built in rewards (promotions) are reinforcing, plus he is around kids with maturity and goals. Cost: minimal, annual membership is like $32

    My two youngest boys are in a charter school run by the Uncommon School Network. The discipline, structure and respect are AMAZING. Both my boys have been asked to leave various schools, and this school has embraced them and they are doing FANTASTIC. Cost: Free,

    All three of my boys are being mentored by a man from my church. Since the time the oldest was 9 he has taken them weekly/biweekly to do “guy” stuff. So they’ve learned to fix a toilet, build a circut breaker, basic plumbing and carpendry skills. He has taught the boys about AM radio and taken one to get licensed as a severe weather spotter. Cost: Priceless

  33. Carole Banks Report

    Dear Mt Mom:

    It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and discouraged given the situation you are describing. I’m glad you have found this website and hope the articles and comments from other parents are helpful.

    Public funding sources for boarding schools are getting more and more difficult to find these days as states struggle with their budgets. You might try appealing for help from your local church group.

    There are likely much better alternatives, however, then to send your son to military school if he is struggling with multiple mental health issues. There are good and effective medical treatments for both bi-polar disorder and ADHD. Start by having a child psychiatrist give your son a thorough evaluation to determine an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. James Lehman states that many times the negative symptoms of mental health disorders must be under control before you can use the techniques in the Total Transformation program. Your child must be able to reasonably regulate his emotions and thinking in order to problem solve with you.

    If you still prefer to send your child to a boarding school and can find funding, it’s important to match the school up with the skills your child needs to acquire. You mentioned that your child has ADHD and a learning disability. There is a resource for finding good schools and camps on the internet. This resource was provided to the Empowering Parents web site by Dr. Robert Myers, the author of the Total Focus program. You may find this article by ‘Dr. Bob’ helpful: Does Your Teen Have ADHD? Help Them Stay on Track in School and in Life

    We wish you success in finding resources and assistance for you and your son. Please keep in touch with us. We’re here to help.

  34. Mt Mom Report

    I have a 12 yr old son. He has bi-polar, adhd, odd, ocd, ptsd (he was assaulted by his principle at school 2 years ago) and has a learning disability. I am looking into sending him to a military boarding school. I have talked to the counselors there and they are used to dealing with kids like my son. My only problem is finding the funding to send him. I am on a fixed income and can’t afford to pay the tuition myself. I have hit nothing but road blocks in my search for funding. Does anyone out there know where I should look? My son has a violent temper, refuses to go to school. He is actually running my life for me and I feel powerless on how to change that. I am planning on ordering the tt program so when he comes home from school I am better equiped to deal with him. I just feel kind of lost right now. Help?

  35. Adopted Son Loved 16 Report

    I cannot tell all of you how much these stories have meant to me!!! Yeah, I am not alone. I adopted a baby boy single when he was 4 months old. Married, then my husband adopted him at 6 years old…he and I dated when I got my son, so he knew no other father…he is ADHD, Bipolar, ODD….(are they all??) anyway, he was born drug affected, fetal acohol….but as miracles have it, that was it…he has an IQ higher than mine and a sense of entitlement to go along with it….When he was 12 it really got bad, so for almost 5 years, my husband and I have been blown away with behaviors….we are lucky with No Drugs, Alcohol, or smoking…He is “too good” for that..I applaud that, but we raised him with the knowledge that it would KILL him if he did…. Anyway, his verbal and physical abuse to me is such that he wants nothing to do with me. He has used my family and thinks he doesn’t have to follow our rules, he can take the car, etc. He can turn low F’s into B’s in 6 weeks….WOW…Well, long story short, my husband and I agreed to send him to Youth Challenge….He leaves or “reports” on Sunday. It is an intensive 22 week program by the National Guard…It is voluntary, but he has a choice , this or Youth Detention until he is 18 then he has to go to school…… after being thrown over a stove, hit on the face with a remote control over a pair of sunglasses, it is TIME…. My heart is broken, but since he will be 17 next month, he will complete the program, God Willing and I will get my son that I fought for so hard 16 1/2 years ago…if he completes and still hates me and his father, so be it!!! I did my part, fulfilled my promise to him and God and will try to make sure he is ok. He doesn’t want to talk to me, see me, interact with me PERIOD!!! Well, I can deal with that as long as he is ok….. Thanks for all the other letters, it does help my heart!!! I am looking forward to being an empty nest to heal….I will miss the little boy, but not the Young Man, he doesn’t exist yet! Prayers are always accepted, and know that I am praying for each of you!!! God Bless and let us hope for the best, and know the worst could happen!!!! I will never give up hope, but I won’t be abused by anyone!!! Thanks and God Bless

  36. Elisabeth Wilkins Report

    Boyzmom: Thank you for sharing your story. I can really see how that must have been a healing experience for your family. Also, good for you for standing your ground and asking your son to leave. My friend’s son was very much like yours, by the way. After a few years on his own, he surprised everyone by coming home a changed person. Life out in the world can be a humbling experience, and that is exactly what my friend’s son realized after a few years on his own. His words to his mom were, “I finally realized that you and dad are the only people who have ever been on my side.” Stay firm, but never give up hope. 🙂

  37. Boyzmom Report

    I also wanted to add that we considered a traditional military or other boarding school but realized quickly that our son could be kicked out of the program and our tuition would be nonrefundable. So we chose to send him to a program where his behaviors were expected and where he would not be able to leave voluntarily until age 18. The environment was very structured and rigid. He was extremely successful there and finished 2 years of high school in one year due to his motivation to leave. There was NO aftercare, however, which might have really helped. The thing I want to emphasize was that I think waiting until your child is 17 and violent to send him out of the home exposes your whole family to tremendous stress and more suffering than you can believe. Then the behaviors are so ingrained that lasting change is very difficult. Wish I would have found this program when our son was much, much younger.

  38. Boyzmom Report

    We sent our son to a Christian boarding school for troubled teens at the beginning of his junior year in high school. He was verbally abusive, angry, disrespectful, shoplifting and stealing from family members, viewing porn, breaking curfews, drinking, and being cruel to his younger brothers in addition to parents. We had been through counselors, psychiatrists, juveline court “at risk” programs, medications, and all really had failed. We finally warned him that laying a hand on either of his brothers was a ticket out of the house. He did anyway, and we promptly paid $3000 to have him escorted from our home by two bodyguards who woke him up in the middle of the night and flew with him out of state to the boarding school. The improvement in our family life and our marriage without our older son in the home was truly unbelievable. Then after his graduation we were sucked into letting him move back home temporarily since he seemed so much better. Within 48 hours we could see our son’s old personality and behavior had returned and we asked him to leave by the third day. The advantage to the boarding school wasn’t the lasting improvement in our son’s narcissistic and destructive personality — it was the respite our family needed, for us to heal, for us to spend positive time with our other children without constantly dealing with our older son’s problems. Our problem son also did get a high school diploma, without a criminal record. Now he is on his own, and it’s up to him. We will never regret the money spent on the boarding school. But he is NEVER moving back home again.

  39. Erica Report

    I am a single mother of a 12 year old son with anger issues, Obedience Defiant Disorder and ADD. He also has emotional issues and consciously tries to make my life a living hell. He destroys things and refuses to accept responsibility for ANYTHING! He deflects everything from himself so he feels no pain and no real happiness. He has just started taking meds for the ADD and I am hoping that it will help some with the behavior, however, if there is no significant change,I am planning on sending him to a military academy. No school is perfect but I am hoping that with some strong male figures around, he will start to see the light. It’s not clear to me how i’ll be able to afford the tuition, but I have to do something before my son ends up in prison or worse. Has anyone had any experience with a military academy? They are a college prep school with great athletics and clubs, and teach study skills and organizational skill, etc. All things that my son needs desperately.

  40. Carole Banks Report

    Dear Abray272:

    Since your son has been physically abusive, and you say you are afraid of him, you may be in a position that requires the professional help of a behavioral specialist when he returns home. James Lehman says if kids are gaining power by being violent, the first thing that you have to do is take away that power by not tolerating violence in your home. There’s no excuse for physical abuse, no matter what. It’s important to teach your son problem-solving skills to manage his strong feelings instead of using violence. An experience like Outward Bound brings into focus a sense of personal control and responsibility. This important emphasis is also what James talks about when he says it’s necessary to ‘create a culture of accountability’ in your home. When he returns home, have an expectation that he is able to make good choices, that he is able to be responsible for himself and his decisions. Interact with him in such a way that you trust and expect that he will try to do better. If he slips, discuss it as a problem that needs to be solved differently, rather than his character caused this back-slide. You can rely on the techniques and the language in the Total Transformation Program to help you teach your son how to think in terms of being personally accountable for his choices.

    Thanks for your question. Please let us know how it’s going. We’re here to help.

  41. abray272 Report

    I’m looking into an Outward Bound program for my 17 year old son right now for all the reasons the above parents mentioned. My son has been unmotivated in school (receiving poor grades), lacks accountability for his actions, has stolen money from me and his uncle, took my car and his uncles car (2 separate occasions) for a “joy” ride without a license, is defiant, seems to be addicted to porn (as we keep catching him looking at websites or trying to access it on the t.v.) and he has become verbally and physically abusive to 3 women that I know of; myself, his girlfriend and his aunt. He has been diagnosed with ADD and mild depression. He is only taking medication for the depression at this time. I am currently a single parent and because things got so bad, he actually made the choice to go live with his aunt and uncle to try and better his life. That only lasted about 2 months before he started getting defiant with them, stole money from them, then their car and all the behavior started again. Now he wants to come back home and promises things will be different. I can’t trust him or believe him and I don’t feel safe with him. He has agreed to go to the Outward Bound but only because I told him it was the only way he could come home. What I’m afraid of is it is only a 50-day program. What do I do after to maintain what he learns from them (if he in fact learns anything)? How can I keep us going in a positive direction? Is sending him to Outward Bound even a good idea? I’m definitely spending money I don’t have to do it but he is my only child and I want him to have a chance at a future. Any advice?
    A caring, scared, single mom

  42. Elisabeth Wilkins Report

    Dear overwhelmed and fed up:
    It sounds like you are living in fear, and that’s not right. As James Lehman says, “There is no excuse for abuse.” If your son threatens you, is verbally abusive or physically aggressive, or steals things from you, it is time to call the police. Here are a few articles that might help–hang in there, and be strong. Please check in with us and let us know how you are doing.

    Kids Who are Verbally Abusive:The Creation of a Defiant Child

    When Kids Get Ugly: How to Stop Threats and Verbal Abuse

    When Kids Get Violent: “There’s No Excuse for Abuse”

  43. overwhelmed and fed up Report

    I can say that I feel like i am in the same boat as most of the other people talking about there life is seems like no matter what you do it doesn’t help or very little my son 14 is bipolar,adhd,odd and has a lot of care in his life since he was 4 years old and in the last ten years he has been in 3 12 month programs and not to mention the many hospitals i lost track awhile a go and has not had any improvements I have went to all the parenting classes seminars and all the thearapy 2 times a week i had so many people in my home trying to help and nothing. My son is 14 and is so out of control with school he went when he wanted was always late I got tired of driving him to school every other day his grades are well all a and b’s so i was greatful for that. My son likes to destroy everything I have holes in all walls i have windows where he has thrown things at and broke he likes to hit on me and his father he likes to stab things all sharp objects had to be locked up and many other things the computer has been pad locked cause he likes to visit porn he also has stolen both his grandmother’s and my credit cards and spent them on porn, and many other things.My son is so disrepectful he calls me and his father all names in the book he is lazy and refuses to do anything that is asked of him even down to brushing and showering I just don’t know what to do you can ground or set up any type of punishment and it means nothing to him he will leave the house and walk where ever for hours at a time and doesn’t even care that he makes me worry.and to say the least this is just the surface of what i go through every day i got to the point where i have had to medicate myself to deal with my home life I just don’t know where to turn he has legal charges which ended up into fines and community service that if he doesn’t complete it will come back on me even though the charges that he recieved was from me and the abuse he has put me through you tell me where that makes sense I don’t know but you can’t go no where as a family it is so embarassing that you just stay home i feel like i am locked up in my destroyed home you can’t fix things because they just get broke again if anyone has some advice for me on where to turn or what to do that would be great because i am ready to give up on it all and just leave….

  44. Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor Report

    I just wanted to remark about how moving it is to read all your comments, shared in the spirit of helping each other. I also had a hard time with my son and wished there might be a place to send him but had no money to work with at that time.

    I wanted to comment on something that Elisabeth said in her post that we found to be true when I used to work with families in their homes. I spent a couple of years doing work with families whose kids were involved in the juvenile justice system. Our goal was to help the family prepare for their child to return home. Our experience was that if the child returns to the same environment, he is likely to respond in the same way he did before he left home. This does not mean that you have to mirror a military school program. It means that in order for lasting change to occur, the family needs to find a way to support the changes their child has made. Before the child returned home, we would help families improve their communication skills, learn how to develop structures and plans to keep their child responsible and accountable, look into school supports and community programs. The change in the family interaction is exactly what Lesson 1 and Lesson 2 are about in the Total Transformation Program, where James Lehman instructs you to look at your child’s problem behaviors and some of the ineffective techniques we parents use to manage those behaviors. Lesson 3 gets into how to set up behavioral structures and problem solve. I agree with Elisabeth that the Total Transformation can be used as preparation for the return of a child to your home — or in many cases, as an alternative to sending your child away.

    For parents in this situation, know that there is hope, as long as you have a structured plan in place that will keep your child’s behavior where it needs to be.

  45. kathy pride Report

    First, let me say I feel like I know each of you, because in one way or another I have lived a part of each of your stories.

    I would agree with Elisabeth, that Military School, or a boot camp program will not work for each individual. We spent a lot of money enrolling our son in a therapeutic wilderness program and aftercare that ended up not delivering what it promised for our son when he was 17. He is now 24 and still floundering. Why? Many are because of his choices, but unfortunately circumstances and enough enabling on our parts is also part of the reason.

    First, I applaud the decision to consider alternatives to military schools or “boot camps” like Teen Challenge, or Therapeutic Wilderness Programs. Our son attended Second Nature in Utah, and indeed it was life changing. They are NOT the same as military schools; although they are frequently lumped into the same category. There is a therapeutic component that helps to address and heal the anger/substance abuse component.
    Our son did well there, but did come home. The aftercare program did not deliver what it promised, and there was drug use there. He came home, finished HS got some college credits and went on to college.

    College was hard for him, but he finally graduated this past winter. But he is still drinking and smoking pot. He is looking for the easy way out and when he drinks he gets really angry. He moved into an apartment in NYC with my mom after my dad’s sudden death in February, but has been sleeping, not reliable with work, belligerant and I dare say verbally and emotionally abusive with his girlfriend and not contributing to the rent.

    I am fortunate in that my husband and I are on the same page, although it wasn’t always the case; he was the firm one, I was the enabler. But no more.

    It is all coming to a head,which is what will happen if one allows to let natural consequences take their course. He has no job, no money and now no girlfriend. She moved out three days ago. What does he need? To take responsibility for himself and avail himself of opportunities that allow him to move forward and not play the victim.

    OK, so I am rambling a bit, but to say for both parents to be on the same page is critical. My husband and I choose together to launch our son into success. He is ahead of some, (college graduate) but behind others not being self supporting, still wearing a cloak of entitlement to a certain degree. We will not let him move back home, it would be toxic to all of us, and my mom is about to give up her apartment and move,so that creates a natural transition point for him. I think that any program that enforces responsibility and natural consequences is key; if depression is an issue (as it is with our son) then a therapeutic component is critical. We had to do
    “tough love” with our older son also, he attended Passages to Recovery in Loa Utah. Also lifechanging. But they are really hard decisions.

    I think the appeal of “Military School” is the idea that someone else enforces the rules that somehow we have become impotent to enforce, but there are other options.

    First, get on the same page. Critical.
    Allow natural consequences to take their course.
    Never stop loving your kid.
    And know you are not alone.

    Peace, Kathy

  46. another frustrated mom Report

    I have signed up my rising 8th grade son for a 5 week summer school/camp at a military boarding school 45 minutes from my home. He too is a bright boy, but completely unmotivated to do any school work, does not care at all about grades and is addicted to xbox and computer games. By some miracle he has managed to get straight C’s at year end. But that does not reflect the struggle and near destruction of our family life during the years. I have hidden the laptop, destroyed 2 xbox machines over the years and lost an ipod somewhere in my house. I have used the threat of summer school throughout the year if he continues to make his poor choices. I basically have become the “bad cop” of the household. We have been unable to succeed with any consequences or punishment. As noted by the other frustrated mom, my husband and I are not even on the same book shelf, much less the same page. He refuses to agree to send him to this program. We cannot even have a civil conversation about the situation. I have done my research, spoken to numerous families who have had success at this same school, created a solid, logical case for this summer only program. Yet we are at a road block. I, too, am almost ready to leave my home and family over this. NOTHING we have done in the past has had any impact on this child’s behavior regarding school. My fear is that if we don’t correct it now, what will I be dealing with in a year or two? So, my question is what do I do when there is no cooperation from the dad? He has no other solutions to offer other than the same crap we’ve been doing over the years. Help!

  47. Frustrated son Report

    I am happy for you that your sons have turned their lives around. We are not having that success. Our son was sent to an excellent residential facility, Outside In, that kept the boys busy with a structured routine of exercise, school, community service and camping trips. After 5 months and before he finished the program, he signed himself out on his 18th birthday. He has been at home for almost one year and has reverted back to old habits: no job, sleeping in until noon, 1 or 2 pm, same old friends, verbal abuse, breaking things, lying and stealing. Tests positive for marijuana. We (I is a better term) started him on a list of rules which he won’t sign or even discuss. If he did not get up early and put applications in, he was out of the house for one day, three days, five days. Problem: My husband won’t agree to follow this plan. He takes our son and picks him up at friends whenever he calls. Husband does not want me calling the police, and says “I just can’t throw him out of the house.” My response: I am ready to leave my home, husband and three other children because this is crazy living like this. My husband refuses to go in on a conference call with your counselors who have been extremely helpful and supportive. Husband thinks that “talking” with our son will miraculously change the situation and just doesn’t get that what we have been doing IS NOT WORKING. I totally agree with James’ advice, but can’t get husband to be on the same page. frustrated mom

  48. bjbauer Report

    After nearly eighteen months of uncontrolled deviance and drug use. We placed our 15 year old son in a Families in Needs of Services Program locally- which helps teens stay out of the Juvenile justice system. He was then placed into a 12 month Drug Free court program through family court due to his continual runaway and drug use. We placed him in Teen Challenge program in Jasper Texas three days before his 17 birthday. He has now completed four months of the program which is very strict and structured to help adults overcome not only drug use but behavior through a Christian program. Our son calls it christian boot camp. He is making great progress. We miss him and it is tempting to talk about him getting out early, but are moving very slowly because we do not want to endanger his recovery and progress. We do not have a plan in place for when he returns. He has completed his GED prior to entering the program.We have discovered that our son had to get completely away from the friends and envelopment in order to recover and grow as a person. The pull of kids on the street was too powerful for us to conqueror. tough decision but one that we are glad we have made.

  49. A Mom Report

    My son attended a military school last year and it truly has turned his life in a new direction. The previous year in school, I received phone calls and/or emails from the school about 3 times per week because of his behavior in the classroom. He was extremely oppositional at home. He is extremely bright, but did not care about his grades and hence, his grades were poor. During this year, his grades shot up to all A’s even though the work is academically more challenging. He received numerous awards for his efforts there which encompassed military bearing, academics, behavior, and physical fitness. These awards motivated him tremendously — he never tried before this year to achieve any sort of award. It is a college prep school, so they motivate these kids early to think about college and prepare them well for entrance into them. We were amazed at the transformation we observed.

    Our son thrived in this setting. But there are kids who got kicked out during the year because of their behavior or because they came up positive on a drug screen. Some kids will rebel regardless of the setting. We also found that some kids get picked on excessively if they do not “fit” in.

    We have not kept the “military” structure in our own home on his return this summer. But we have found he is much more compliant with our rules and with carrying out the chores required of him.

    We have not decided yet if he will return for the next year, though he is open to it as are we.



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