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What is a Disneyland parent?

If you are a divorced Wisconsin parent, you may be dealing with issues concerning your former spouse and the way (s)he handles your children when they visit him or her on weekends and at other times. Unfortunately, in many post-divorce situations, the parent with primary custody bears the responsibility of raising the children while the other parent need not show many, if any, responsible parenting tendencies when they visit him or her.

If this situation describes you and your children’s other parent, you may be dealing with what has come to be known as the Disneyland parent syndrome. Actually, the original designation was “Disneyland dad” because mothers traditionally gained custody of their children while fathers traditionally became the absentee parent after the divorce.

Meaning of the term

Whatever the gender of the Disneyland parent, Empowering Parents describes the pattern as follows:

  • (S)he allows the children to do pretty much whatever they want to do while in his or her custody.
  • (S)he sets few, if any, rules for them to follow.
  • (S)he puts few, if any, expectations on them.
  • (S)he “buys” their love rather than earning it.
  • (S)he indulges them in whatever they want to do and however they want to spend their time.
  • (S)he gladly relinquishes the children to the other parent when the visitation ends, giving little, if any, thought to the problems (s)he has caused the other parent to deal with.

Handling a Disneyland parent situation

If you are the responsible parent left to deal with your children on a daily basis, you probably cannot change your former spouse’s irresponsible behavior unless and until (s)he wants to change. If (s)he does, recognizing the harm (s)he is doing to the kids (s)he undoubtedly loves but simply does not know how to parent, you may be able to convince him or her to go with you to family counseling.

Barring that, the only thing you can do is parent your children to the best of your ability when they are with you. Do not hesitate to set rules, boundaries and expectations. But also remember to offer rewards, such as extra TV or computer time or a later bed time, for adhering to the rules.

This is general educational information and not intended to provide legal advice.

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