"If they lose that zing, and they just won't swing,
then the problem falls in your lap.
When your folks are square, then you must prepare.
What are you gonna prepare?
The parent trap!"The kids are busy playing with each other, then one day a tremor goes through their innocent world: the parents of the two children are engaged in a feud! The group of friends have been ordered not to talk to each other, even to actively hate each other! It's obvious that their parents are holding the Idiot Ball and it's up to the kids to sort it out. Maybe they run away, forcing the parents to put everything aside to find them. Maybe they resolve the argument by using their Disney exact child logic and showing the adults just how silly their fight is. Maybe they pull the Twin Switch to become The Mole in the other's family (like the Trope Namer), or maybe they will use Homemade Inventions and their High School Hustler skills for a Zany Scheme. Either way, by the end of the episode/film, the children have resolved their parents' problems and the status quo is restored. Common in Nickelodeon series as a Recycled Script.
— Tommy Sands and Annette Funicello, "The Parent Trap"
- The Parent Trap, of course. The above quote is derived from the title song of the 1961 movie. You can watch the opening sequence (including the song) here.
- The Adventures of Pete & Pete took this, like everything, to a remarkable extreme in the episode "Apocalypse Pete". The Wrigleys build a base "NASA would've killed for" to spy on the Hickles and pull rather elaborate pranks on them, including moving their house one inch to the left and remotely flushing their toilet. Big Pete and Ellen are banned from seeing each other, and communicate via the local crossing guard, who had seen "one too many spy movies" and would eat the notes and then recite them back to the intended recipients.
- Subverted in Frasier: Frederick seems to be trying to do this to Frasier and Lilith, but he's actually purposely trying to make them realize he's doing this, in order to make them think he really wants them to get back together, and thereby make them so guilty for not getting back together that they'll buy him a racing bike he wants. They manage to thwart him at the last moment, but damn if that's not impressive for a thirteen-year-old.
- Supernatural: After Dean and Lisa break up, Ben tricks them into meeting one another again for a date in an attempt to bring them together again. It doesn't work, and Dean even lampshades the situation by irritably telling Lisa that they were 'Parent Trapped'.
- Inverted in The Fantasticks, where the feud is a fraud engineered by two widower fathers who want their children to wed — and manipulate them into a relationship by making each one Forbidden Fruit to the other.
- This The Order of the Stick strip depicts the end result of such a plot by Elan (and possibly also Nale). Subverted as this occurs in the simulation created by Girard Draketooth's Lotus-Eater Machine — and the fact that it's blatantly Too Good to Be True is the thread Elan spots that leads to unraveling the entire deception.
- Early in Dumbing of Age, Joyce suggests doing this with Joe's parents. "It'll be just like The Parent Trap! The old one, not the one with the slut in it." Joe shoots this down on the grounds that a) it doesn't work that way in reality and b) he wouldn't want them to get back together.
Joyce: What? Why?
Joe: They yell a lot.
Joyce:...But what if we play them a song? We should play them a song.
- They were never friends to begin with, but the Fentons and the Mansons in Danny Phantom get along as well as two ghost hunting parents and two ultra-conservative WASP-like folks do. The Mansons banned Sam from seeing Danny Fenton, going as far as slapping a restraining order. Though the two parents respected one another by end, the Mansons only lifted the restraint if their daughter (who's a Goth) will wear a pink, flowery dress for them.
- Unfortunately in their next major appearance, the Mansons and Fentons are feuding once more. This time, it doesn't get fixed and stays that way for the reminder of the series.