When does teenage behavior need an exorcism

My Wife wants to talk to our priest about performing an exorcism on our mouthy 15 yo teenage son.

I have asked her point blank does she really believe this, and she said somewhat weekly - how else do you account for his behavior.

I have pointed out to her that bullying in families is common and was even present in her family. She has pointed out that in our case the prime target of bis bullying is his younger son who is smarter than him, but has Aspergers.

I think she is way off base in this belief.

We follow Ray Guarendi’s advice about “out of the family” and send him to his room for days on end which normally helps. I do say a decade for him at daily mass, and we do say the daily family rosary for family unity.

I hope it is just a matter for time before his behavior become better.

Possession is a diagnosis of exclusion, which is to say the behavior has to be beyond what can be accounted for by known psychological disorders and normal levels of concupiscence. What you are describing doesn’t meet that level of evil, not by a long shot. You understand that having Asperger’s is not evidence of possession? Acting like a fifteen year old isn’t, either.

It is not at all uncommon for an older sibling to bully a younger one who is better academically but somewhat inept socially. Why? Because it takes diplomacy to be obviously smarter than your older sibling without having that sibling resent you for it. Siblings compete, and the sibling with the advantage of age feel they should always win that competition. That is human nature. If your bad behavior is excused for any reason at all, it only makes it harder for your older sibling to endure it. That is human nature. Even when an older sibling understands this dynamic (which is rare), the emotion will still be there. More to the point, fifteen year olds normally find younger siblings annoying, even if the younger ones don’t have any habits that are particularly annoying in an objective sense. Adolescence has this way of removing all of a person’s patience. Having a brother with Asperger’s does not make all your sibling problems with your brother go away. Sometimes the older sibling will be able to always understand their brother’s issues and take them into account, but sometimes older brothers are just older brothers. The world is full of parents who are looking at their “tween” or teen and how they act and saying to themselves: What happened to my sweet, good-natured kid?

Try working on your older son’s challenges with as much generosity as you do your younger one’s challenges. Let him know that you understand it is not easy to be the oldest, always held to the higher standard, it is not easy to be the sibling who is “typical,” and therefore held to a higher standard, and it not easy to be expected to go through adolescence even when you’re an only child. This is all very true, after all. Children with no siblings go through this “possession” stage, too. If the ages from 0-3 are the suicide watch and the ages from 3-11 are the age of having everything you say repeated at the worst possible time, a priest friend of mine called the age from 12 to adulthood the age of “try not to kill them.”

There are lots of books out on this now, but one I have heard good things about is: Getting to Calm: Cool-Headed Strategies for Parenting Tweens + Teens, by Kastner and Wyatt. You might also ask the psychologist who is treating your son with Asperger’s about how other families cope with this issue. Be very sure that you are not the first one to be facing it.

Sending him to his room for days on end is not the way to go, BTW. Giving him permission to hide in his room when the rest of you are just too much for him, though, that is a different dynamic. Talk to him about that.

It doesn’t sound like he’s suffering from severe demonic possession (possible, but not likely) that would require a full-blown, hours-long driving out of demons, but there are prayers and blessings from a priest that could also be considered “exorcisms.” Was she referring to something like that? Or could it be that she was just more or less expressing frustration with his behavior and a desire to do something more about it, than an actual belief that your son is demonically possessed? :wink:

That said, I would agree with your wife that it’s probably a good idea to speak to the priest, at least (though not necessarily for an exorcism). It sounds like you may need to do more than what you’re currently doing to see improvement in your son’s behavior, and the priest likely could point you in the right direction.

Oh, my, oh, my, wouldn’t it be perfectly lovely if we could blame our teenagers’ behavior on demon possession and turn the teen over to a priest for an exorcism…

…instead of parents doing the difficult and time-consuming work to read and listen to various experts in child-rearing, discuss the various findings, and then make a joint decision about which strategies to use to attempt to train the teen to be a well-behaved young person.

Parents have to be the bravest people on earth. :slight_smile:

Exorcism would be a last resort; try a good child psychologist, specializing in teen behavior first, or maybe some family counseling. Your local Catholic charities should be able to recommend someone.

The other posters have pretty much covered the advice that I would give, so I’ll just add my two cents as well and say that demon possession is very rare and nothing in the description of your son’s behavior fits it.

If your method of discipline is no longer working, it’s time to re-evaluate it and try something else. God bless!

No, I certainly don’t think that your son is possessed by demons or bad spirits, he is possessed by teenageritis! Having taught high school for 35 years, I can attest to the fact that many fifteen year old kids are quite troublesome, especially those with sibs that have special needs. It could be that your son is acting out and somewhat jealous of his younger brother. I understand that it must seem that you have a good son and a bad son - that is not true. Please remember that kids on the spectrum, especially the high functioning ones, can be quite manipulative and you would never even suspect it! If your older son perceives that his brother is treated differently and has different behavioral expectations placed on him, then you need to find a way to explain why there are differences. I would try and spend alone time with your older son doing activities that are important to him. Pitting the two brothers against each other when it comes to grades and school achievement is a bad idea, so when you say that the son on the spectrum is smarter than his older brother who is “normal”, that is putting a horrible stigma on the older child. There are many different kinds of intelligence, not just academic. I hope your family finds a way to work out the behavioral issues. A good psychologist would be your best bet.:slight_smile:

A thorough psychological evaluation is required before an exorcism would even be considered. So, that’s your first step. Any psychological & physical causes need to be completely ruled out. If you think your son might listen to your priest, it can only help! But, the advice of a good Catholic psychologist can also be helpful. Keep in mind just how crazy the teen years are for kids, though. We have 6 kids & our youngest is 16. They’re all different. 15 was a difficult year for all of them, though. My own advice is to “hang tough” & ride it out for awhile unless there’s clear evidence of self-destructive behavior.

Welcome to the real world.
Today most kids are incredibly foul-mouthed but then so are their movies, books & mags which are their role-models. They do it to shock & get a reaction (which he is getting).
Instead if you just say ‘Really how utterly boring…cant you think of any other words to express yourself? They are only silly pathetic words, my dear. Why don’t you try Spanish; it’s much more colourful & shocking’.
It’s a phase he will quickly grow out of if he doesn’t get continuous ‘shock/horror’ feed-back reaction from his mom. Maybe mom should eavesdrop on the locker-room after they have just lost a game…the air is positively blue. I really do think the Right disHonorable Satan has far more influential potential clients than your son.

I’m only a nearly 21 year old kid with no children of my own, but I have two younger siblings and I’ve been through that teenager phase before. Here’s my advice as someone who can, at least somewhat, sympathize with your son.

My younger brother is, honestly, probably more intelligent than I am, and is a bit better than I am at music, despite my having taken piano since he was an infant. I tend to make better grades though because those are more important to me than they are to him. But he is more technically gifted with music, despite my studying it longer. My natural reaction is to get jealous and defensive of my own musical talent. It’s just an older sibling thing. I’ve been around longer so I should be better at this. It’s a pretty natural sibling rivalry thing.

In your son’s case, it seems like he’s acting out because his younger brother does better in school. On top of that, he probably feels like his sibling gets more attention than him, despite him being older, and on top of that has less strict social expectations without necessarily understanding why. Obviously I can’t speak for your son, but from the perspective of a fifteen year old (who you must remember do NOT have the sense of fairness and tolerance of an adult) it probably seems like his brother can “get away with more” than he can even though his brother is “smarter”.

To be completely frank, at his age, seriously bringing him in for an exorcism for being a rebellious teenager will more than likely turn him from his faith. I think that’s a horrible idea unless he is without a doubt possessed. All he will get from that is that his mom hates him and doesn’t understand, and that he can’t go to his parents and expect them to understand his problems. You need to be compassionate and understanding and at least try to understand his perspective or else he’ll just become resentful that his parents send him to his room when he acts out and then thinks he’s possessed because he doesn’t know how to express his problems without being punished.

Before you do anything else, you both need to talk to your son and try to hear his perspective. He may not want to talk to you about it, but you need to make it clear that you’re his parents, not the overbearing antagonists in his story. You have authority and you have your reasons for disciplining him. That doesn’t mean he understands, and if you react to his problems with what he sees as strict and excessive punishment, he won’t change his behavior. I have to go to mass, but I agree with the other posters. Just try to be understanding. I guarantee you this is a miscommunication issue, not demonic activity.

Rereading your post, I may have come across as more harsh than I intended. I’m sorry if I did. I feel like your wife may be overreacting to your son’s behavior though, so I would certainly talk to him about why he’s treating his younger brother the way he is, and see whether it’s just a case of him taking out either jealousy or even just hormonal emotional turbulence on his younger brother.

I agree with what EasterJoy said. If your main punishment for his acting out is to send him to his room, it might be beneficial to also let him choose to go to it on his own to cool off when he needs to. As I said in my previous post, just make sure you emphasize that you aren’t “out to get him” or anything, you just want him and his brother to get along better. I feel like having his mom take him to a priest for an exorcism will just make him more upset. I’ll keep your family in my prayers!

You haven’t provided enough information to determine whether your son has become possessed by a demon, and even if you had, I don’t know whether anyone here is qualified to make the call.

This is surely therefore best raised with your family priest, who may have the necessary knowledge or may know another who does.

FWIW I think children do many bad things at times to test our limits and it may be that if being confined to his room has not deterred him there may be other steps you can take that would be more effective.

I’ve been given warning points here for advocating corporal punishment, a practice praised in the Bible, so I won’t do that, but you might want to read Proverbs 13:24 and act unsparingly on its wise words before calling in a priest.

Yes. I meant along the lines of, “We understand that you are at an age where a young man can find his family very difficult to be around, even if he loves them and they love him. Still, there is a certain level of polite behavior that everyone here has to observe. Because you are a teen now, though, we are going to give you permission to excuse yourself from spending as much time with the rest of us as we’d usually expect a social person to do. The only condition is that you don’t do anything in there that is against house rules, and you act in a polite manner when you are out here. If you don’t act in a polite manner, I am going to find some household chores for you to help me with, on the spot. You’re not going to do anything socially until you have your chores caught up, so I’d advise you don’t dig yourself in a hole with regards to the chores.”
“Since your younger brother has this way of going in without knocking, we’ll let you lock the door to your room, but only if you realize we’re going to let ourselves in with the key with only a knock first whenever we see fit. How does that sound?”
As for the chores, don’t get too draconian. You always want to be able to pile more on, if things get worse, without making him into a house slave and giving him something to feel sorry for himself about.

Wow. I can’t even imagine how spiritually and psychological damaging it would be for you to even bring up the topic with your son.

Think about if you were a 15 year old and your parents seriously considered subjecting you to an exorcism!

Gee, thanks mom. Thanks, dad. You think I’m possessed by Satan. I’ll sleep so much better at night now. And you can forget driving me to Mass on Sunday. I won’t be going any more FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE!

FWIW, I can empathize with you. Our 15 year old daughter can be a burden, and she does get in the mood to cause trouble. She’s been to therapy off and on since early childhood, and she does take meds for depression.

Try to see the beauty in your son. He deserves your love and support.

Also, there’s a fair amount of clinical research that concludes that teenage brains are so chaotic with hormones and chemicals and whatnot that there are times when they’re virtually insane.

I know the OP’s question is of a serious matter, so do not take this attempt at levity as trying to make it seem non-important. Its just that I saw the thread title and the first thought that went through my mind was “between the ages of 13 and 19”.

Her son is bullying a younger sibling, not just lipping off to her. That she thinks her older son is possessed indicates that this is behavior she believes is totally out of character. This cannot be my wonderful son acting like this! But yes, I would not let on that in an exhausted frustrated moment it could cross my mind that I thought my child was possessed, let alone that a neurologist would testify in court that he was functionally insane, even if both were true. That would be squirting lighter fluid on this particular fire. :eek:

When she goes through menopause and her son fearfully asks what has gotten into her and wonders out loud if a geriatric psychiatrist ought to be called in, what goes around will have come around.:rolleyes:

(On that note, if she is in her mid-forties, she could be going through hormonal changes herself that do cause things like this to blow out of proportion very easily. Crying at long distance phone commercials, wondering if your teen son is possessed, and so on…many of us can attest to a change of brain in ourselves just about the time it hit our teen children. Congratulations, Dad! You don’t have to go to the nuthouse, because the nuthouse has come to you!! :smiley: Seriously, though, families get through these things without professional intervention, most of the time, and others find a little professional help does wonders for their situation. Just knowing that your suddenly all-too-imperfect family is entirely ordinary can do wonders, all by itself. As the pyschologists like to say, “The definition of a dysfunctional family is ‘any family with more than one person in it.’” Hang in there, everything this side of Heaven is a nuthouse once in awhile…)

Wow. I can’t even imagine how spiritually and psychological damaging it would be for you to even bring up the topic with your son.

Think about if you were a 15 year old and your parents seriously considered subjecting you to an exorcism!

Gee, thanks mom. Thanks, dad. You think I’m possessed by Satan. I’ll sleep so much better at night now. And you can forget driving me to Mass on Sunday. I won’t be going any more FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE!

FWIW, I can empathize with you. Our 15 year old daughter can be a burden, and she does get in the mood to cause trouble. She’s been to therapy off and on since early childhood, and she does take meds for depression.

Try to see the beauty in your son. He deserves your love and support.

Also, there’s a fair amount of clinical research that concludes that teenage brains are so chaotic with hormones and chemicals and whatnot that there are times when they’re virtually insane.

My wonderful wife when she was in high school was acting like a normal high school girl. She was talking back to her parents occasionally and went out on dates with boys and got in a few minutes past curfew occasionally (honestly, I was a lot worse behaved than she was).

Her parents suggested that she might be possessed by a demon and they might need to have the pastor do an exorcism. They even set up an appointment with a pastor that they cancelled. First of all, it was an absolutely insane suggestion and just the frustrations of parents of a teenager. Secondly, her parents acting that way has still had a negative impact on their relationship with their daughter and the emotional scars still remain.

That should absolutely never ever ever be mentioned in front of your son or it will have longer lasting effects on your relationships than you realize. Don’t do it.

Teens can be so insensitive to the feelings of others that it can be hard to remember how very sensitive they are themselves at the same time. It is real mine field for a parent, and a lot of tongue-biting is required. You simply cannot say everything they deserve to have you shoot back, or you’ll really make a mess of a bad situation. You have to be the uber-adult, which is very hard!

This is very true. With kids, especially teenagers, they can be obnoxious and it can be tempting to snap back at them. But, you just have to keep in mind that you are the adult and they are the child and act accordingly. Definitely a tough balancing act.

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