A friend of mine recently separated from her husband; she has three kids and adjusting for her and the kids have been difficult. There are many things parents have to figure out when they no longer live under one roof and the hardest being the visitation schedule. Creating a schedule without involving the court is advisable if you’re both sober-minded, but setting the dates is not the only challenge. When you raise your kids separately, there’s a high chance that you will create a different set of rules, norms and values which means each parent will raise the same children differently. It is often in such situations that Disney parents are created, a Disneyland parent, also known as a non-custodial parent is the one who spoils their child with presents, which can be challenging to cope with and may also have detrimental impacts on your child.

This term was mainly created for dads who are usually the non-custodial parents in most cases, this kind of parenting stems from guilt and to an extent is a form of competitive parenting. Every parent going through a divorce is terrified that all of the sacrifices, responsibilities, and work that go into raising a child will fall solely on them, while the other parent enjoys all the fun. There’s nothing wrong with having fun with your kids every once in a while but there’s everything wrong if you’re not reading from the same book. The problem with Disney parents is that they leave all the hard work to the other parent, it’s a system that makes the other parent look boring and also creates resentment. Parenting is all about teamwork and whether you’re together or not everything you do has to be in the best interest of the child which Disneyland parenting doesn’t do. The hardest part of parenting is instilling discipline, helping children with their assignments, reading them bedtime stories and modeling good behavior for them so that they have no excuse to be anything less than great.

Let’s go back to my recently divorced friend, she constantly complains that every time David picks up the kids they come back with sore throats and lots of toys plus they have a hard time sleeping on time. When the kids are with her, the kids sleep at 8:00 pm while when they are with David they sleep at midnight which disrupts their routine. When they return home, she feels as if they need resetting; that is exactly what she spends the next two or three days doing. She has to remind them why they need to sleep early, and why they can’t have too much sugar and when she tells David that he doesn’t need to keep buying them gifts as a way of expressing love he argues that if she can’t afford it then that shouldn’t be the case for him. It’s a lot more than that though, isn’t it?

Disney parenting is a form of love bombing, being too afraid to face the children with all the questions, the tantrums, the boredom, the fevers that randomly come it’s a way of bombing them with all these feel-good emotions so that you’re not forced to be an actual parent. I told my friend that David was a Disney dad and her biggest fear was that she’d lose them to him since he uses his money to gain affection she thought that she equally had to do the same, and she wondered how she could be a fun parent when she also has more bills than him since she has to buy food, pay rent, pay the nanny and live life since he only pays fees. I urged her not to do that, I remember telling her that children thrive on routine, they perform better when there are rules built on love, consistency and discipline. She gave me a worried look but I reminded her that buying her children out would only teach them that people who didn’t buy them gifts didn’t care about them, they’d be spoiled and that would sooner or later blow up on her.

Contrary to popular belief, children naturally seek limits and boundaries to feel securely attached to their caregivers; as a result, when one parent consistently indulges them emotionally rather than materialistically, they start to appear to their children as becoming less exciting or “safe.” While Disney parents may have the best intentions, their emphasis on having a wonderful time with the kids comes up short of the goals each parent should have for their co-parenting time.

So then what do you do if your co-parent is a Disney parent?

Convincing a Disney parent that their approach is ruining your kids will be difficult and especially if he/she does it to spite you or make you look like the not-so-cool parent. For starters, just like I told my friend, it is not your job to make your kids like you by smothering them with gifts, it is your job, however, to love your kids and impart good morals. Remind your children that they need to be responsible for themselves, the time you have with them is crucial and since you spend a lot more time together your kids must understand why these rules are in place. Using fear as a disciplinary tactic should be avoided at all costs because your kids will learn how to pretend when they are with you. Instead, try explaining to them why they need to sleep early, if it’s about sugar remind them how it feels to have a sore throat and that injections are not fun. In the end, you need to encourage them to follow the rules for their own good, even with the Disney parent. Disney parenting is a type of negligent parenting behavior that can have negative repercussions on your children, but you can reduce them on your own and with little additional effort.

Secondly, you must pick your battles because some fights are not worth picking no matter how much it bugs you. You cannot change your ex. But you can alter your reaction to that person spending time with your kids and your perception of what is worth a fight. In many cases, the Disney parent doesn’t have as much time with the kids as you do, so they might be cramming in as much fun as possible. The best course of action is to carry on as normal, avoid conflict with your ex, and go about your business in peace unless you believe your children are in danger. More than another night of ice cream for dinner, your arguments with the other parent will have an impact on your kids.

Keep in mind that you and your ex will probably never be the same and that ultimately you’re the disciplinarian and that should not intimidate you. The question of “who can have more fun?” may frequently result in an unhealthy rivalry if you are so scared or enraged by your ex-decisions partner to do nothing but spoil the kids. It doesn’t benefit anyone when you put all of your efforts into trying to outdo your ex because then you’ll neglect to provide your children with the necessary structure.

You are a good parent. Whether or not your ex spoils the kids excessively, raises the bar on parenting, and makes you feel like your outings to the mall are a waste of time, you are enough. There is no Disneyland trip more crucial than that for your kids since your constancy, structure, and routine are the port in the storm.