Breaking Free From the Disneyland Dad Syndrome

Most people remember those commercials after the Super Bowl or other major sporting events where the MVP would asked, “You’ve won the Super Bowl, now what are you going to do?” The answer was always the same “I’m going to Disneyland.”

Why was this the answer? Quite simply because it is still the ultimate playground, no matter how old we get. Unfortunately this sometimes translates into skewered actions in real life, including on behalf of the non-custodial parent in divorce cases.

This is not to say that the non-custodial parent takes his or her children on trips or lavish vacations. On the contrary, due to the limited time most non-custodial parents have it is almost impossible to actually take long trips and adventures. In fact, these parents are known as 14 percenter parents, a term used in divorce circles to describe the non-custodial parent with standard every other weekend visitation for child custody, which amounts for the most part to a mere 14 percent. Most parents find that since their time is limited it is important to make the most of it.

When in this situation, it is not uncommon for parents to treat their visitation as the ultimate vacation.

In other words, the parent tries their best to outdo the last visitation by bouncing from activity to activity while consuming junk food, and candy. Sadly these actions set up unrealistic expectations for future visits with the parent. Of course, this also doesn’t sit so well with the other parent. After each visit the children return to their custodial parent full of sugar and tales of their fun with the other parent.

By human nature there is always a struggle over what is right and wrong. Most parents who act out the Disneyland dad behavior do not feel that this is wrong. And maybe it’s not. But it does make things harder for the other parent, children and even the non-custodial parent. It can even harm the relationship between the Disneyland dad and his children by skewing discipline and boundaries.

There is nothing wrong with occasionally spoiling your children with treats, but wholesome family activities such as visits to a bookstore, a school event, or even just a walk through park are grossly under appreciated.

It’s never too late to establish a routine with your children and institute boundaries that will help your relationship grow despite the fact you only have minimal time with your children.

By Ron Lasorsa