By Katie Davis
“You’re such a Disneyland Dad.”
The term is thrown around quite a bit. Now, we even hear the term “Disneyland Mom” as well.
But what does it really mean? Is it only used with feelings of resentment, or does it represent something bigger?
Actually, this term has now become so recognized that definitions are listed at many legal sites. According to USLegal, a Disneyland Parent is “a noncustodial parent who indulges his or her child with gifts and good times during visitation and leaves most or all disciplinary responsibilities to the other parent.”
Father and successful blogger Fred Campos, at Daddy Got Custody, writes about the different types of Disneyland Parent. Campos believes there is a guilty one, a manipulative version and even the more vindictive type.
But whether this parent splashes attention and big gifts toward his or her children due to guilt, anger at the ex or a plan to win over children’s affections, the results are nearly always the same. That particular parent becomes less of one in their child’s eyes.
“Long-term parenting on these terms is not healthy and doesn’t work. Kids like to have fun for a little while, but what they really need is a parent who will be a parent,” says Campos.
Sociologists and psychologists have studied this term and what it implies in recent years. In fact, the National Parents Organization reports that sociologist Susan Stewart looked into the “Disneyland Dad” concept and why it occurs.
It was her opinion that unfair or largely uneven shared parenting time can often produce the Disneyland effect, while longer periods of parenting time by the non-custodial parent did not seem to lead to this.
“Fathering time, especially time that is not limited mainly to weekends, or to other small parcels of time, is closely associated with the quality and the endurance of the father-children relationship,” reports Stewart. “This kind of fathering time is highly correlated with positive outcomes for children of divorce.”
So, what can a parent with limited parenting time do to prevent against coming across this way or earning the “Disneyland” definition?
“‘Disneyland Dads’ miss opportunities to help their children grow in virtue; they also miss chance to get to know their children in their ordinary lives…[They] need to help their children with homework, to have them do chores around their home and to tuck them into bed on a school night.”
At the end of the day, what your children need from you is much more than gifts and huge displays. They even need more than a friend. Your kids need a parent who will be an educator, leader, motivator, counselor, fair disciplinarian and someone who is consistently in their lives.
Don’t beat yourself up if you identify with a few of the definitions listed above. If they’re honest, most divorced parents would probably fit into one or two of these categories as well.
Just remind yourself of the importance you play in your kids’ lives and how vital reliability and routine are to them. In the parenting world, structure often translates to love.