Have you ever joked about Fun Parent Syndrome?

While it may be funny in the movies, this problem affects many families. It really is not a joke at all.

Sure, being “the fun parent” might sound fun. However, the other parent is not the only one who suffers. The fun parent ends up suffering as well.

More importantly, children who grow up in this environment can end up dealing with a variety of problems.

Therefore, families wrapped up in this dynamic need to see it for what it is. A family is a system and this system needs to change.

What Is Fun Parent Syndrome?

The term isn’t actually a psychological diagnosis, of course. However, people use Fun Parent Syndrome to describe a situation in which one parent makes and enforces family rules while the other parent … well, just has the fun.

The dynamic often happens in families of divorce. People sometimes call it Disneyland Dad Syndrome. This refers to a time when Mom typically got full custody of the kids. Dad, on the other hand, just had weekends and vacations. Therefore, time with Dad was the “fun time.”

Of course, families come in all different configurations these days. Plus 50-50 custody is more common than it used to be. Nevertheless, it isn’t uncommon for one parent to become the fun parent after a divorce.

Furthermore, it can happen even in families where the parents are still married. One parent fails to hold up their end when it comes to discipline, rules, and maintaining family structure.

Instead, they try to remain a kid themselves and ignore their responsibilities in favor of having fun with the kids.

Fun Parent Syndrome Eats at a Marriage

The most obvious problem is that the couple is not on the same page. Therefore, the marriage weakens. After all, no parent wants to be the one that isn’t fun. They naturally get resentful when the other parent isn’t doing their share.

Even parents who are no longer married should work together to co-parent. While the rules may differ a little bit between one house and the other, both parents should be actively involved in parenting the children. When they aren’t, the co-parenting relationship dissolves. This is unhealthy for everyone.

Children Respect Responsible Parents

One of the most insidious things about Fun Parent Syndrome is that it leads children to lose respect for the fun parent over time. It might not be fun to talk about rules.

However, when you explain to your child why you have those rules, they get to understand your morals. This gives them respect for you as a human being. Also, it’s how they truly learn to behave in society.

Children Need Stability

Children need rules. They need to know what is expected of them. They need to know that they can count on their parents to be there.

While it may not be fun, the everyday routines and responsibilities actually show them that you care.

Fun Parenting Is Shallow Parenting

Sure, it seems great to be the fun one, especially when children are young. You get to just enjoy being with them. However, real connections with your children are built upon more than just good times.

Parents have to have hard conversations about emotionally charged subjects if they want to connect with their kids on a deep level.

When it comes down to the real tough stuff in life, would you go to the parent who has built trust with you or the one that is just there for the fun?

It can be really challenging to transition away from being the fun parent. However, therapy can help with all of the challenges of being a parent, including this one.

Learn more about my Parenting Counseling approach and how I can help your family.