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One time, when my wife was doing homework with my 6-year-old son, he did not want to do something so she couldn't take it and she slightly yelled at him. I sat down with him and he told me that "He's no longer friends with her". Why do you think he said that? What was his intention? And in Psychology, is there a term for this trait?

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migrated from Jul 17 '14 at 3:21

This question came from our site for practitioners, researchers, and students in cognitive science, psychology, neuroscience, and psychiatry.

He was disappointed and angry at her behavior, and this was his age appropriate way of expressing his emotions. Your wife should not take this personal, because she isn't his "friend" anyway, but his parent, and parents need to be on a hierarchical higher step (authority) than their children. On the other hand, she might reflect on what made her lose her temper and develop a strategy to better deal with her own emotions next time there is a conflict between her and her son. The ideal parent is like a rock in a storm: calm and unaffected by their children's tantrums and not retaliating. – what Jun 18 '14 at 6:56
So the answer is: This is no trait but common and appropriate behavior among children. – what Jun 18 '14 at 6:58

The best defense is a good offense.

This is a statement reflecting a trait called self preservation.

I am not a psychologist, but a Family Physician, so please take everything I say as theory, not gospel.

Your 6 year old son is dependent on his mother (and you) for a lot of very fundamental things: food, clothing, shelter, safety, alleviation of pain/suffering, love, acceptance/maintenance of trust, belonging, instruction, etc.

It is likely that your son felt (deservedly or undeservedly) betrayed by his mother when she "slightly yelled at him". Anger from someone on whom you depend upon for love, acceptance and safety is a very threatening experience.

Your son's statement was one of self-preservation, of distancing himself from his mother so that, should this breach of trust happen again, it will not hurt so much. The problem is that it doesn't really work, especially at his age. He is not old enough yet to separate emotionally from his mother.

It's not uncommon for a young child to say things like your son did. The most painful (but not uncommon) exclamation is "I don't love you anymore." It's useless and counterproductive to point out to the child how untrue or painful that is; he does feel something that made him say it. The best response is to say (and show) that in spite of his statement, or the feelings behind it, you still love him, and will continue to do so. (Reading The Runaway Bunny should impart a bit of wisdom here.)

Does it have a formal name? I don't know. When you withdraw from your wife after a fight, does it have a formal name? I just call it withdrawal.

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