The Manipulative Disneyland Parent Syndrome

written by Fred Campos
The Manipulative Disneyland Parent by Fred Campos,

The Manipulative Parent by Fred Campos, @FullCustodyDad bloggerI am in a series discussing The Disneyland Parent Syndrome Defined. We talked previously on The Guilty Disneyland Parent, who tries to over compensate for the guilt they feel when missing their kids by over doing the gifts, trips, and bending the parenting rules. Today we’re going to talk about the covert and often overlooked patterns of the Manipulative Disneyland Parent.

Jill, just two months out from her final court orders, is still reeling emotionally about the divorce with Joe. She is mature enough to not speak ill of Bob in front of their nine year-old daughter Denise, but still feels the need to control her daughter’s environment on the other side. When planning out her daughter’s swim lessons, she looks past the convenient during the week times and purposely picks weekend lessons without consulting Bob or his schedule. On his weekend visitation, she pack Denise’s suitcase with clothes of her own choosing right down to Denise’s Hello Kitty toothbrush.

Jill tells herself that she is helping Bob and looking out for the best interest of their daughter Denise, but in reality she is manipulating and controlling the other side. Finally when Denise returns for her weekend visit with her dad, she asks fishing and supposedly innocent questions. “Did you make it to church on time this past Sunday? Did dad get in the water with you during your swim lessons? Did you go to bed Saturday night at your normal bedtime? Did you wear the blue dress I packed for you on Saturday? What did dad cook for you this weekend? Did you do anything fun?” While these all seem like concerned co-parenting family questions, the tone is one of total control and manipulation.

In this situation, something must jolt the parent to become aware of it enough to then ask what is the real motive and purpose behind their questioning. If folks learn one thing from divorce, it’s that people rarely change, so you must be diligent on the outset to not let this take a hold and cause permanent damage.

Then there’s Jack who lost primary custody. However, he believes that he’s the better parent and he is going to convince Alex and Ann of that every day for the rest of their lives. Sometimes he may “do” something he knows the Ex will come unglued about just to show the kids that he “loves” them. Or he may purposefully return the kids late and explain that their mom just doesn’t understand how special their time is together. He’s also planting future seeds like, “You know that when you’re 14 you can tell the court where you want to live and then you can be with me just like you’ve always wanted.” He may also ask questions that will lead the child to make incorrect assumptions about their mom’s intentions or love. For example, “Did your mom get mad when you failed that last test? Well, she doesn’t understand how hard you do work.” So, you see the manipulative Disneyland syndrome can strike either parent.

Do you or your Ex try to parent to the other side? How have you participated or been affected by the Manipulative Disneyland Parent?

Fred Campos is father to three and primary custodian to his daughter Caitlyn from a previous relationship. Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at



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