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When Your Co-Parent is the Fun Parent

The fun parent is commonly called the “Disneyland Parent,” a term that refers to one parent who is all gifts, candy, and freedom when they are with their kids.

The fun parent is commonly called the “Disneyland Parent”, a term that refers to one parent who is all gifts, candy, and freedom when they are with their kids. This type of parent rarely says no and often produces lavish presents, electronics, or experiences when it is their parenting time. Healthy eating and homework often take a backseat, which mean that the other parent must often  compensate for those missed responsibilities during their own time.

One of the biggest challenges of a fun parent dynamic is that it makes the other parent the authoritarian and the disciplinarian. The Disneyland parent is trying to demonstrate their affection, be involved, and create connection with their child. In the short term, these efforts may be rewarded with excitement and smiles from the kids. However, in the long term, kids may feel their relationship lacks the depth and boundaries they are looking for  from their parents.

Signs of Disneyland Parenting

In many cases, the parent with less custodial time may become the fun parent because they are with the child on special occasions or on weekends. The parent with more custodial time might be responsible for the day to day, school, and extracurricular activities, which creates an uneven dynamic between them.

An important note here is that the Disneyland parent is not always making an intentional choice to act this way. Given their limited time with their child, they are trying to build memories and have fun experiences because they love their kids. For the unintentional Disneyland parent, there is no malintent here and they may not recognize the burden they are putting on their co-parent.
Some signs of a Disneyland parent include…

Lack of Rules or Boundaries

A Disneyland parent may choose to forgo all rules or boundaries in their house. This can present a sticky situation for the other parent because the child may feel they have more fun at the house that allows them to eat ice cream for breakfast. Enforcing rules on transition days can become complicated for co-parents who need to spend time re-acclimating the kids to their regular routine.

Lack of Discipline or Responsibility

A fun parent will often choose to disregard any discipline, chores, homework, or other responsibilities the child may have. This may be because they do not want to spend their limited time disciplining or arguing with the kids but this can encourage them to act out to test their boundaries  in some instances.

Uneven Financial Involvement

While the Disneyland parent may have no problem splurging on the latest gaming system for their kid, they might not support their child financially for day-to-day items. This can cause tension between co-parents because one parent has the responsibility of providing the basic necessities like food, shelter, clothing, and school-related costs, which leaves less income for gifts or fun activities.

How to Move Forward

As we previously mentioned, not all Disneyland parents are making an intentional choice to forgo rules and discipline. They may be working hard to create great experiences and make the most of the time they have with their children. If you are feeling frustrated with your co-parent, starting an open conversation with them is the first step.

Begin the conversation by expressing how you feel in the form of “I” statements. Instead of beginning with the blame-game of “You”, tell your co-parent how you feel and the reasons you feel frustrated. If they are open to having a conversation, suggest some regular activities or upcoming school projects that they can help your child accomplish. This can help them to feel more involved in their daily life and can be a good experience for both your child and your co-parent.

If it is possible or realistic in your case, modifying your plan for parenting time may be a solution. When parents are responsible for more of the day-to-day duties in your child’s life, it can be harder to simply shrug off  the mundane, but necessary tasks. Talk to your lawyer, a mediator, or a counselor if you want to begin this process.

If your co-parent is not open to having a productive conversation, move on and focus on your child in the time you have with them. Using a communicating service like TalkingParents can help to keep your conversations accountable, on the record, and more focused on your child. You can coordinate your schedules with the Shared Calendar, message each other when needed, and keep the conversation focused knowing communication cannot be modified or deleted.

Additionally, by adding appointments, school projects, and extracurricular activities to your Shared Calendar, your co-parent will be able to see how busy you are with your kids. This can help them understand your perspective and can be a possible prompt for them to become more involved in these things as well.

Do Not Compete

One of the most important aspects of co-parenting with a Disneyland parent is to remember that parenting is not a competition. The “fun” and excitement of your co-parent’s house will wear off and your child will begin to crave the boundaries and security the other home creates.

Children can enjoy a cost-free day at a park  just as much as creating memories with you while doing a fun art project at home. There is no need for every experience to be an over-the-top one just to out-do your co-parent. Trying to one-up or outdo your co-parent  could lead to more anxiety and arguments between the adults and ultimately has nothing to do with the children.

During your parenting time, focus on showing your kids love and attention, creating healthy routines, and supporting them however they may need it.

Turn to a Professional

Lawyers, therapists, counselors, and mediators can all be great resources who can help you navigate these challenging dynamics. Contact professionals you know or trust to get their opinions, help you create structured conversations, or modify your parenting plan as needed.

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