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Guilty Father Syndrome

Crr18's picture

Wondering if there are anyone knows of books or articles based on what might be guilty father syndrome? 

cmd88's picture

If you google, "Guilty Father Syndrome," a ton of articles pop up. Is it just Guilty Father Syndrome in general or? Do you have a little back story to better search the type that you are looking for? Like how to manage it, spot it, save a relationship with?

Crr18's picture

I am not sure if it is even what he has. Thanks goodness the Skids are good kids. He never says no, there is no chores (except putting their clothes away), there is no displine, and I am the one who's SO runs the skids even where it is not our night. He worries they will not come to see him or the ex will keep them away if he changes his ways. He claims he doesn't want to be like this anymore so I was looking for anything I might suggest to him.

JRI's picture

We call that "Disney dad" here on Steptalk.  If you search that term on this site, you will find hundreds of us discussing this behavior .  Good luck.

cmd88's picture

Sounds like it to me. Or what they call a "Disney Dad." Disney dad is:"Disney Parent Syndrome is when a noncustodial parent only takes part in the fun stuff and leaves the discipline to the other parent. It's commonly called 'Disney Dad Syndrome' because fathers have traditionally been the noncustodial parents.A “Disneyland Dad” is just a parent who is forced to try and create the most positive experience they can in what miserably little and completely insufficient time they have been given."

Coping techniques:

"Communicate your concerns via email

Let’s face it, Disney Dads aren’t great communicators. They avoid anything parent like – yes? So don’t even bother having a face to face conversation about their behaviour and ‘parenting style’ with them. It can only end badly… and usually for you, not them. So, send an email. Stick to the facts. Make it ‘transactional’ for want of a better term. Don’t reveal your emotional ‘stuff’, you will be talking to a brick wall. Your best chance at a breakthrough is by using “he” or “she” statements, in reference to the children… not “I” statements in relation to you and YOUR feelings. Mr Disney Dad doesn’t want to hear it. If you get angry, name call, or put him down heaps you will only be giving him more ammo. Keep it about the kids and their needs.

Don’t try to change him

Minimum words required here! Trying to change him will only destroy you. Have a say then leave it. In time this will get easier, trust me! Also, learning to have no expectations of a Disney Dad helps – when you have no expectations you aren’t as easily disappointed! Sad but true.

Never try to compete

This will only make you bitter and perpetually frustrated. You will constantly be living out of alignment with yourself… your parenting style, your morals and values, all of it. And when you live out of alignment you often become angry, resentful and stressed. Not only that, when it comes to the ‘buying and doing’ (of extravagant things) if you try and keep up or outdo Disney Dad your finances will take a huge hit. As a single mum you don’t need any extra financial pressure, right?

Understand that for young children this fun ‘stuff’ is addictive

Remember that the kids aren’t playing the emotional game or buying into the bs they are simply enjoying what our brains love most, fun! So when Disney Dad goes OTT don’t get angry at the children for enjoying the days out or the new toys etc. To them it’s not about Dad versus Mum… it’s about FUN! Their little brains are firing out dopamine (the chemical associated with pleasure and reward) at a rate of knots so they are bound to be ‘addicted’ to Disney Dad’s offerings.

Understand that kids NEED routine, boundaries and discipline to thrive

Despite what Disney Dad does (or in most cases, doesn’t do!) stick to your guns. Enforce your regular routine and don’t feel guilty for it. Recognise and be proud of your commitment to continue giving them the routine and stability they crave. Set boundaries and enforce them consistently. In time your children will respect you for doing this. If not now, definitely as they grow up. Never think that you should relax your rules to compete with Disney Dad.

Provide balance for the child

If your Disney Dad ex is big on constant entertainment and huge days out, you should explain to your children why down time is important. Why everyone needs to rest. Why home days can be just as much fun. Explain to them that when you CONSTANTLY have days out you don’t appreciate them as much. Use can also use examples to help children understand why love, being together, memories and TIME mean more than STUFF.

Be consistent in your messaging to the child

Whatever you tell your child, make it positive and about YOU and your choices, not their Dad or his choices. You want to bring stability to their life – NOT more chaos. Yes, you can explain that Dad can make his own choices and that yours don’t have to be the same, but leave it at that.

Remain committed to your values at all costs

SHOW your children the right way to live. Show them what’s important in life.
MODEL the right behaviours for them.
REMEMBER; never lower your standards for ANYONE!

Trust that one day your child will see through it all

Trust that with your guiding principles your child will be ok. As children mature and form their own views they DO start seeing the “FAKE”. Let them see it for themselves. If you force it you may jeopardise your relationship with them.

Remember you are their safe place. Their constant. Their everything.

Just be you. There really is no point trying to live a competition of you versus him. No matter what Disney Dad does, remember your children come home to you. You are their sounding board. Their rock. Their place to let loose. You’ve got their back, even if he doesn’t. Actively bring peace to your own life – the kids will benefit from a CALM mum."

Hopefully this helps.

Crr18's picture

It is not like he actually does fun things with the kids. He just runs to to sports all the time. The only time spent one on one is if he takes the SS to hit balls or shoot baskets and that is not for fun it is for practicing. The BM is the one who does all fun things with them and she does not say no either. She does not cook or clean. They eat out or have take out. The skids don't want to do anything with him. He basically has only taken them away for two short weekends in the 8 years he has been divorced.

cmd88's picture

They can still be considered a disney dad even if they aren't making things fun. It's the lack of discipline and learning to tell his children no. If he never does it, then that also makes him a disney dad. 

CLove's picture

or Warehouse parent. Minus the fun, they shelter, feed, transport, clothe kiddo, but no chores no accountability or repercussions and zero expectations.

And then they grow up (sometimes) and 'poof' the world has expectations. 

Cover1W's picture

Oh that's a good one. Using this analogy, DH transitioned from a Disney Dad to a Warehouse dad when the SDs became pre-teens. Spot on!

SeeYouNever's picture

I can handle my DH being a Disney dad to SD as long as he doesn't go broke doing it. He can let her eat junk food and have no responsibility all he wants, not my kid. However if he starts to be a Disney dad to our children I am on him so fast! I want to raise good citizens not detriments on society. 

I think Disney dad is synonymous with lazy parenting. They aren't neglectful but they're lazy. Indulging the kid and giving them whatever they want is the easy way out it's hard work to be a good parent.

I wish was a book on being a guilty father that I could give him but it's actually much more useful to just give him good parenting books! Looking for a resource to try to change his behavior getting him some resources on parenting techniques might be helpful. I found it helpful to talk about this type of thing with him just as parenting strategy rather than attacking him as being a guilty dad. He knows he's guilty he needs to be better.

Crr18's picture

He knows he is guilty of it but then if I try to say it is parenting he really gets upset. He says he does what he can so that he can see the kids.That he wants to parent differently but feels like his hands are tied. I try to tell him that I understand he has good kids but if they don't understand discipline or the word no he is going to have big problems now that they are in their teens . He is naive to the fact That his kids use this non parenting to take advantage of situations. I can see it from looking in that they are already doing this in small ways.  It actually scares me that something can really go wrong since they parent this . That is why I was trying to see if there was a good book or something because I am not going to keep at him about it. 

Cover1W's picture

I've not found an answer to this. I've had discussion after discussion, given examples, arguments, etc. with my DH about rules and limits and consequences. To no avail. He'll sometimes say that is a good idea, but never follows through. If I ask an SD to do something or provide a consequence myself then I do it when he's not there because he will ALWAYS step in and undermine me.

I pretty much just disengaged. I'm lucky because YSDalmost16 is pretty easy overall but I do NOT get involved in parenting, just in regular human/roommates interactions (don't leave empty containers in the cupboard please for example).

Stepmonster the book helped me. You could also review the Radical Step Mom podcasts for topics.