Dealing with the “Disney parent”


Emily and Kevin talk about dealing with a Disney parent. They discuss ideas on coping with your child after being spoiled with the other parent.



Emily: Divorce Talk Radio does not give therapeutic advice. The topics discussed are for informational purposes only. If you are in need of therapy or counseling please consult a licensed professional in your own state.

Welcome to Divorce Talk Radio. This is Moving Forward. I am your host Emily McGrath with my co-host Kevin McCarthy. How are you today, Kevin?

Kevin: Emily, hey, how are you? Thank you for having me here as always.

Emily: Thank you for being here and thank you to our listeners as well for being here. Today we’re talking about a topic that I’m always dealing with, Disney parents. I’ve diagnosed it as Disney parents.

Kevin: Disney parents? Just a little side bar here, Emily, then we’ll go back. Actually there are some acquaintances of mine that, it turns out I didn’t really know this or pay attention to it, but a lot of people get married at Disney Land and Disney World. Did you know that? I didn’t really know that. Either I was just totally dumb by it. There you go.

Emily: Interesting.

Kevin: A lot of things take place at Disney Land and Disney World, and amusement and theme parks overall.

Emily: Yes, and there are individuals in their own Disney Land.

Kevin: That’s right. We’ll put it nicely by saying just that. What would Roy Disney think at this time?

Emily: I don’t know. It’s probably not what he would have wanted.

Kevin: Not at all. Mickey Mouse came a long way since Minnie.

Emily: Yes. What I mean by Disney parents is either mom or dad in the individual family who give the child anything that they want whether it be from sugar cereal to watching TV or pop, and no rules.

Kevin: Al lright, so why would they do that? What would be the reasoning?

Emily: For the child to love them. Children love their parents unconditionally.

Kevin: Right.

Emily: No matter what they love them unconditionally.

Kevin: I know when the chips are down with my kids, we might have had a little argument or something, but push comes to shove here comes old daddy. Dad’s there for them, but still I think you bring up a great topic today.

Emily: This way of parenting is not productive. It is a false sense of love because it’s all things or food or
whatever the case may be. There’s no discipline. There are no boundaries at all, and it can be hard on the other parent who parents with boundaries, discipline, and healthy food. I deal with this on a weekly basis I get: “But, dad says this, and dad lets me have this, and have that.” How do you deal with that? My way of working with
this, because it has come up.

Kevin: In general you would just want to make the kid happy because he or she is going home back to the other parent in two days, so you go out, you pig out, you order the third pizza that you had for the past two nights because the kid wanted it. Is that where we’re going here?

Emily: Right, yes. What I do, this may not always work, is explain to my son: “Well, you have two homes and things are different at daddy’s house and things are different at mommy’s house. We have rules at mommy’s house, and we don’t eat junk.” I don’t allow junk in the house.  Occasionally I’ll let him have a treat here or there, but it’s not a regular basis. I want him to have a good breakfast especially now that he’s in school. He needs to have something that’s going to stick with him. I don’t believe sugar cereals, or Pop Tarts, or anything like that is going to sustain his learning and stay with him until snack time.

Kevin: Right.

Emily: I prefer to do proteins and healthy fruits and vegetables, well not vegetables for breakfast.

Kevin: Boy, you really drive that kid back to dad real quick.

Emily: Actually, he’s very good about eating his fruits and vegetables, luckily. It’s a good idea to start
off on the right foot for breakfast because especially when they’re five or six in kindergarten or first grade you need to get them out the door with a full stomach, and healthy food.

Kevin: With the right food. We all want some bad stuff here and there. When I say that of course I mean all of the
junk food. They do say breakfast is the most important meal of the day especially when you’re younger.

Emily: It is, right. I just explain to him that he has two different households that he lives in. I always say kids
are in need of boundaries. They actually want boundaries and discipline. They will thank you later on. They’ll be more tuned to have their own boundaries themselves later on in life, and they’ll be more responsible.

Kevin: They’ll be more disciplined especially when they hit the working world or going to college.

Emily: Even high school, doing homework or making the right decision. It is difficult when you deal with that with your child. Then you’re so called the bad parent. I’ve dealt with that: “Mom, I don’t like you because you do this or that.” I would discredit that because they don’t mean that. They don’t like the fact that you’re not giving
them everything that they want.

Kevin: Especially at that age. They’re not really thinking it through, Emily. They’re thinking: “This is what I want now.” They don’t know the total aspect of it, but that where the parent comes in place.

Emily: Right. You just have to remind them that you love them a lot. Maybe give them a hug and say, kind of like
what we said in the last session, “I know you’re upset, and you want this, but I love you. We’re going to do something else.” You can have a choice of a peach or some strawberries, or a different snack if that’s what they’re

Give them choices instead of “No, you have to have this.” That gives them a sense of “I get a choice.” That will
change the way that they’re thinking and take them away from what they were wanting to a choice. “You get this or this.” versus no. If they want to watch TV “Let’s do this or that instead of watching TV. Do you want to go outside and play or do you want to play with a puzzle.” That kind of gets their mind off that thing that they wanted.

Kevin: Sure, which they really want to play with is this toy.

Emily: Or they want to play a video game. I don’t do video games, which I know he does with his dad, and that’s
great. That’s a bonding time for them. I don’t do that. I say let’s do something else, and just change their mindset.

Kevin: Right. I know, too with some of my neighbors who went through a couple of divorces here and there, they always wanted to please the kid when the kid was over to the house. I remember one time they came back with this battery operated car or something like that, so I asked him “Hey, John where did this come from. Is it a birthday? Is it a special day? Is it maybe your mom bought it for the kid?” He said “No, he was just acting up and so I wanted to calm him down.” He’s telling me this, and I’m thinking “You know what you just did, buddy? Now next time he’s going to complain again. Are you going to buy him another toy, or are you going to try to control things here?” Again, we don’t want to give in to the kid. You need to teach the kid.

Emily: Right, and there’s nothing wrong with saying no. It’s okay to say no. You need to stick to the no like we
discussed in a couple of shows.

Kevin: Yes, in one of the other podcasts. No means no. In your case I like the alternative you would give. Instead of watching or playing a video game ” All right, we’re going to play a puzzle, or do you want to go outside and play, or take a walk with mommy and the dog somewhere.”

Emily: Right, you want to give them options because then they have a choice. It’s a different brain wave a way of
thinking. It’s like, I actually have a choice instead of saying completely no.

Kevin: Think about how many parents out there and people we know that do become so called Disney parents just to make the kid happy. Why would you want to make a kid happy who’s acting up. When I say that I know
of course you want to make them happy, and you want to make them love you.

Emily: Right, but when they’re acting up that just reinforces that bad behavior.

Kevin: It sure does.

Emily: Then you have a nightmare on your hands, unfortunately. There are other ways of dealing with that. It’s very difficult to have a child who is getting everything with either their other mom or dad. It’s hard to snap them out of that. Another thing is then they think that they can play you against the other parent, which is not something that you should try and start with your child. I would nip that in the bud really quickly. I know my
child tried to do that a couple of times, and I didn’t play into it.

Kevin: They don’t have to be that old, they’ll figure it out.

Emily: No, I think my son was two or three years old when he started that, and that’s not going to work. I usually
say ” that’s nice that daddy lets you do that.” or something to that variation, and “Mommy doesn’t do that at our house.” We don’t have whatever the thing is that they want.  Just give them boundaries and restate what the house rules are, and remind them that mommy likes to have fun too, but we have fun in other ways, or something to that fact.

Kevin: You always control what happens at your home, however there is the other ex-spouse who hopefully will have some common sense to realize ” I’m not going to give in to this kid all the time.” Maybe you go out and you get the kid an ice cream after dinner then he wants another one, or you’re going to be buying more ice cream, or every time you expect this. No you look for that as a treat.

Emily: Exactly. The other issue that comes with that is the obesity issue if the child is constantly getting sugary
foods and pop. I don’t allow my child to have pop. I just don’t think it’s something that he needs to have. It’s not nutritional. It has no value of anything to it. He may have a sip once or twice from root beer that does not have
caffeine in it, but obesity is an issue. If you are constantly having those foods in front of your children they’re not going to know what to choose when they’re at school to eat.  They have to make that decision to have something that’s sugary or eat something that’s healthy. That’s another topic that you want to have your children make
the right choices. Providing them with those options is another way to help them make those correct decisions.

Kevin: It is okay once in a while for a kid to have a pop, but it goes back to where it’s just to please the kid, to
make the kid happy. Johnny and Jane are happy, let’s give them another can of pop.

Emily: Then you’re wondering why the child is off the ceiling.

Kevin: Sure, he’s buzzing around, and then the other parent sends Johnny or Janie home and then the other parent has to deal with why the kid is acting so differently. It’s bad enough now just by one kid going to somebody else’s house let alone adding more to it for the other parent to deal with.

Emily: Right. If you can talk with your former spouse about it that’s absolutely fantastic. Some parents don’t want
to talk about their parenting skills, but that is a discussion that you could have with them. That is another show.

Kevin: Talking to the other spouse during the divorce and then after, the post-divorce too.

Emily: Right, having difficult conversations.

Kevin: That was always difficult for me especially with someone who really messed with your mind, you really want to talk to this person? Let’s stick with this topic of the Disney parent side of things.

Emily: It can be very difficult, but you can get your child back to where you normally have them, and they behave
well. It’s just that the transition period is sometimes very difficult.

Kevin: It’s been demonstrated here by you other podcasts that we’ve done that there are solutions to a lot of these problems. There are other alternatives to a number of these problems, they just have to be practiced.

Emily: Right, and like I’ve said in our previous podcast, communication is huge with your children. Just keep those lines of communication open so they feel comfortable coming to you and talking to you about it, because once you don’t have those lines of communication open then things can go wrong. If they don’t feel that they can trust you, then I don’t even want to say what could happen. It all sums back to communication and just talking with your child about the rules that you have in your house and reinforcing them. We do have rules here, but we
also have fun. I want to have fun with you, but we do also have rules. I think in the long run children will be grateful for that, and they’ll chow that in the long run. I know it will be hard right now because I have issues with that now with rules and boundaries, but it’s good to have them. Make sure you keep them, and stick within those boundaries because it could be bad.

Kevin: Now, there’s only one way I would look the other way on the Disney parents is if they’re Disney grandparents.

Emily: They’re grandparents, I wouldn’t call them Disney grandparents.

Kevin: Exactly, you’re right about that. The grandparents can spoil the kid and then the kid has to go home, the
grandparents know that. That’s the job of the grandparent to give the kid entertainment because of course when you go home you have rules and should have rules and be disciplined. The grandparents is an outlet. I say that all
in a joking way. The grandparents are the only ones that could get away with this stuff, but not when it comes to the parents.

Emily: Grandparents are grandparents, they have a little leeway there as long as it’s not taking advantage of the

Kevin: With your business, for your divorce coaching, do a number of your clients, Emily, tell you about their problems such as this Disney parent thing, or how do they make the kid happy?

Emily: Absolutely, it’s one of the topics that I deal with on a number of occasions and that’s why I’m always
searching and looking for things to help my clients and myself because that’s what a good professional does, they’re always learning. I’m always trying to find new ways of doing things and tools. That’s what I bring to my clients and here. Thank you, Kevin. I’m so glad that you joined us today. I think we covered a lot of good content here today, and I hope that we can get some feedback from our listeners because I think this is another topic that is dealt with but not really know what to do with it.

If you have questions, or have some topics that you would like discussed you can email me at You can also visit us at Thank you again, and I hope that you have a great week.

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