As a father going through a divorce, you probably cherish the time you have with your children. If your wife filed for divorce, she may temporarily have more parenting time until the courts issue the final custody order in your case. If all you have is visitation, it’s totally natural to want to make the most out of that time and really drive home to your children how important they are to you.

However, your efforts to win the hearts of your children in this difficult time could actually undermine their long-term development and your success as a parent. Being a parent often isn’t fun, as discipline, structure and enforcing expectations all come with the territory of raising children. Becoming a Disneyland dad can seem fun at first, but it isn’t what’s really best for the children.

What is a Disneyland dad?

The term “Disneyland dad” stems from the idea that one parent’s house is like Disneyland for the kids, while the other has to be the enforcer. When they go over to dad’s place, the kids can watch TV all day. They don’t have to be in bed by their standard bedtime, and the parent might make a point of taking them out on exciting excursions and buying them expensive gifts frequently.

Doing nice things for your children is a beautiful part of being a parent, but it should take a backseat to establishing your parental authority and actually helping your kids during a divorce. Kids need structure and stability, especially when there is a disruption in their life. Divorce can be very stressful for your kids, so a quiet weekend doing homework and then playing board games can benefit them more than a trip to an amusement park.

It is perfectly okay to do fun and engaging things with your children when you have them, but you also don’t want to undermine the basic rules and expectations for your kids or create such a high standard for what you do that they will demand adventure and fancy gifts in the future. Balancing your desire to give them the nicer things in life with the need for structure and discipline will make you the best possible parent after a divorce.