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Am I a Disneyland dad?

Your kids recently returned to their mother’s house after a long visitation with you, during which you took them to a theme park and had other fun adventures. Your ex-wife was upset and accused you of being a “Disneyland dad.” What exactly is this term, and how can you avoid being a Disneyland dad – or more accurately for Florida, a Disney World dad?

“Disneyland dad” implies a noncustodial parent is not being as responsible for the upbringing and discipline of the children as the custodial parent is. People may refer to either gender as a Disneyland parent, but it is usually the father who gets the nickname. Why, you may wonder? Most of the time, the mother obtains primary custody of the children, and fathers often fill their limited visiting time with fun activities.

There’s nothing wrong with having fun with your kids. However, as with many nonessentials, too much of a good thing is not necessarily good. You might feel guilty that you have so little time to spend with your children, and you may miss them when they’re gone. This could make it tempting to lavish them with gifts and take them on trips, while not prioritizing rules and structure. It might even be gratifying to be the “fun” parent.

Even so, you may wonder how to avoid the derogatory “Disneyland dad” label. The following tips may help:

  • Follow consistent rules and routines when your children visit, such as enforcing regular bedtimes, chores and consequences for wrongdoing.
  • Be involved in the less fun aspects of parenting, such as helping your kids with homework and attending parent-teacher meetings.
  • Try to be civil and polite when communicating with your ex.

Your children will remember the fun times you spent with them, but they will also remember the quality times when you showed you cared by being involved in their interests and daily activities.

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