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Mr_Saturn512's avatar

Is there a name for kids like these?

Asked by Mr_Saturn512 (478points) August 15th, 2014

I thought there was some kind of psychological disorder or effect or something for this type of a scenario. I don’t know how to put but it goes like this:

The kid doesn’t talk at all to their parents. They shy around them but whenever the parents are not around, they can be themselves. They’re loud and happy. But whenever their parents are around, they change completely – like they’re a prisoner.

I thought there was a name for that. I knew I read it somewhere. I just wanted to know more about it.

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18 Answers

tinyfaery's avatar

Abusive parents? That what it seems like to me.

jaytkay's avatar


snowberry's avatar

It’s passive aggressive behavior, and I wouldn’t put up with it. Try an Internet search for “Passive aggressive behavior in children”. Lots of times they’re angry and don’t know how to handle their emotions, so they act like that. They can also pick up the behavior from other kids. Here’s one link.

It’s not easy to deal with but you can do it with support. And remember, you teach others (including your kids) how to treat you!

janbb's avatar

How old are the kids? Makes a difference.

jaytkay's avatar

On a serious note – I have friends who have avoided this by insisting to their kids, “Look at me” and “tell me exactly what you want to say” while they are talking.

It sounds simplistic. But they have always done this and their kids carry that behavior outside the home. The kids (ages 10 to 20) are all really confident and popular with their peers and with everyone else.

flo's avatar

I don’t know the name but, it can’t be the fault of the kids whatever it is. They don’t feel comfortable enough with their parents? Or by being themselves are we talking about behaving badly away from their parents and behaving well around the parents?

snowberry's avatar

It’s the same manipulative behavior whether it’s in an adult or in a kid. Passive aggressive. If you don’t nip it in the bud when they’re kids, they carry the behavior on into adulthood. Look it up.

zenvelo's avatar

There are a host of reason why this might happen, and it’s not as simple as “passive aggressive” as @snowberry would make us believe. It’s hard to discuss or figure out without knowing the age of the children nor what the family dynamic is. And the OP doesn’t say if they are quiet, or don’t initiate conversation, or if they ignore the parents. All of those situations are different.

Maybe the kids were ignored or told to be quiet when they were little. “Your mom and I are trying to have a conversation!”

Or maybe the parents never ask the kids a question.

Or maybe they laughed at the kid’s questions or comments.

Or maybe when they call the kid to the dinner table they’re into the third glass of wine.

Maybe the mom doesn’t talk because she’s scared of the dad.

Really need more details to offer an explanation.

snowberry's avatar

Regardless of what it’s caused by, it’s still classic passive aggressive behavior, in kids or adults. People like this never learned how to properly deal with their anger, and so they become passive aggressive. Regardless, it would be nice to hear from the OP about the rest of the story.

cheebdragon's avatar

I highly doubt it has anything to do with being passive aggressive, especially since no one said the kids were angry or resentful of anything. It sounds more like a form of social anxiety disorder.

I’m quiet around my family members and generally only speak when someone asks me a question, but around friends and most strangers I can be pretty outgoing.

janbb's avatar

@zenvelo nailed it. No way to name without more details.

gailcalled's avatar

It is not passive-aggressive behavior, which is now used to describe everything, including aggressive behavior.

Mom asks teen-aged son to take the trash out.

He says,“Okay.”

Then he never does.

That is passive-agressive.

AS @zenvelo says, there can be many reasons why a teen-ager is inhibited, shy or tongue-tied in front of his/her parents.

cheebdragon's avatar

It could just be the way they show respect, kids will be kids and that’s fine, but my son understands that he should behave a certain way in various settings. I despise parents who let their children scream and run amok in stores, it’s a huge disrespect to everyone in the store. In civilized society you should be aware and courteous to those around you, you don’t have to care what they think, but can you imagine how awful leaving your house would be if there were screaming wild children everywhere you went? Fuck that, you can teach your kids to be politely outgoing.

flo's avatar

@snowberry We have practically no info, to diagnose them passive agresssive or whatever else. What if the parents are unfit (like the ones who keep smoking in their car with the windows up and who argue when it is pointed out to them that is is dangerous?.)A pair a few years ago had been involving their children in shoplifting. Maybe the children are hoping they can be adopted?
Not all parents or parents to be are qualified to be good parents. I know I am not.

snowberry's avatar

@flo Good point. I got the impression that the kids suddenly started acting like this. And I sort of alluded to that: “Regardless, it would be nice to hear from the OP about the rest of the story.”

Mr_Saturn512's avatar

No it’s not that they’re bad kids or behave badly, they just fall silent in front of their parents. Something about their parents literally wards them off and inhibits their ability to become social. I swore I read something about that in a psyche book and they had a name for it.

Mr_Saturn512's avatar

I could be confusing this with autistic behavior. But the example I’m showing is strictly around their parents. Then when they are not monitored they feel at ease and socialize.

Mr_Saturn512's avatar


So I finally ran into the term I was looking for after all this time and just wanted to update it.

It’s called “selective mutism”, and it’s not just in front of parents, but any specific people really.

From the wiki:

“Selective mutism is an anxiety disorder in which a person who is normally capable of speech does not speak in specific situations or to specific people. Selective mutism usually co-exists with shyness or social anxiety. Children with selective mutism stay silent even when the consequences of their silence include shame, social ostracism or even punishment.”

I was just browsing the Internet and ran into it and was like “YES! That’s the term I was looking for!”

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