Who doesn’t love a good trip to the Magic Kingdom? It is, after all, the happiest place on Earth. So, why has the phrase “Disneyland Dad” come to be so derogatory, and what can be done about it?
A Disneyland parent is the parent who does not have primary custody of the children after a divorce and who, in the limited time they have with the children, attempts to make up for their lack of involvement by indulging their children’s whims, giving them gifts, taking them on special excursions, and generally avoiding anything – including imposing limits or discipline – that could make their child unhappy. This strategy has the effect, whether intended or not, of painting the other parent as the “mean” parent by contrast. In this modern age, the phrase doesn’t just belong to dads, moms can be guilty of this behavior as well.
There are generally two types of Disneyland parents, the intentional Disney parent and the much more common unintentional Disney parent. The intentional Disney parent could be behaving this way in order to get back at their co-parent by always being the “fun” parent. These parents often take pleasure in pointing out to their kids how different they are from the parent who sets boundaries, enforces bedtimes, and maintains rules. More likely, however, the Disney parent simply wants to make the most of his or her limited time with the children. Going from living with your kids to seeing them only on weekends or holidays is a difficult adjustment and the desire to make every minute count is somewhat understandable.
If you happen to be a Disneyland parent, you may want to keep these five things in mind:
- The children’s things belong to the children. If you are taking your children on extravagant trips, you should make sure that they go back to your co-parent’s house with everything they came to you with.
- Even if you’re not living with your children much of the time, it is still vital to make sure that children understand they still have responsibilities and expectations to meet. This doesn’t mean you need to give them a long list of chores every time you are with them, but it is important for kids to have a sense that you are their parent and that time with you doesn’t change those responsibilities or behavioral expectations. Whether it be putting the dishes in the sink, going to bed at a decent hour, or making sure they don’t forget to brush their teeth after eating cotton candy all day at a theme park, keeping things normal for children is important.
- Being only a “fun” parent may seem like a great idea, however, doing so may damage your children’s relationship with you and with the other parent. Your children may not see you as much of a parent if all you do is entertain them. When you leave all the unappealing, more serious parenting responsibilities to your co-parent, it can create a negative dynamic between them and the children. Neglecting important pillars of effective parenting such as boundaries, schedules, and regular responsibilities often makes the other parent seem like the “mean” parent for doing what you both should be doing – parenting your children which means establishing routines and stability.
- Last but certainly not least, Disneyland tickets are cheaper on weekdays so, keep that in mind when planning your next vacation.
There’s nothing wrong with taking your kids on trips or giving them gifts but it’s important to make sure you aren’t neglecting the vital responsibilities of actually parenting them at the same time; one day your kids will thank you for it.
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