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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Why I am Not a Fan of Elf on the Shelf® Shenanigans

This post is not going to win me any popularity contests. In fact, a friend warned me before posting that several people may block me from their Facebook friend list. I'm okay with that. I'm writing this not to judge those families who choose to engage in this fad, but to offer a different perspective on the trend and hopefully relieve some moms of the guilt of not participating in this "festivity."

I don't consider myself a Grinch at all. But I am not a big fan of the current Elf on the Shelf® fad. According to the official website, the little guy is a "special scout elf sent form the North Pole to help Santa Claus manage his naughty and nice lists." Okay, so it's about behavior modification and the age-old threat of coal in their stockings, hanging the threat of Santa over their heads to get the kids to behave because "bad kids don't get presents and good gets get loot for behaving as they should." (There are even "citations" your Elf can issue to your children available on Pinterest. Which reminds me, I'm adding Elf on the Shelf® to the "100 Ways Pinterest is Killing Me Softly" list.) Is this the Christmas spirit we want to perpetuate in our homes? If that is indeed a parent's intent when purchasing the Elf, psychologists proved long ago that this is not an effective or positive tool in behavior management.

Naughty Elf

And if behavior modification through intimidation is the purpose of the little guy, then why is he often so mischievous? I've seen photos of elves making "snow angels" in spilled flour, wearing mom's bra while dangling from the chandelier, and scrubbing his rear end with the kid's toothbrush. How does such an elf have any right to fly off to tell Santa when your kids have misbehaved? 

Scaring the Kids

Not only is the Elf threatening to tattle on your kids, isn't it a frightening thought even to adults that there is a strange little "Big Brother" doll watching your every move that mysteriously moves around your house, messing with your stuff while you are sleeping? Sounds like the makings of a Holiday horror movie. One of my mommy friend's child was so afraid of their Elf, that he would not be in the same room the Elf. Ever. My friend felt terrible that what she had intended as a cute gag traumatized her child that Christmas and she sent the elf back to the North Pole never to return.

Spirit of Christmas?

Every year when the Christmas season rolls around, we hear a lot of "Remember the reason for the season." As annoying as that little rhyme may be, it does hold truth for my family. We have many family Christmas traditions, from attending advent services and Lovefeasts and holding advent devotions each night of December, to adopting an "angel tree" child in need, and decorating the tree together to the sounds of our favorite Christmas albums while drinking hot chocolate (no matter how warm the temperature outside!) and telling the story of the many handmade, gifted and travel souvenir ornaments as we hang them on the tree.

In thoughtfully considering our Christmas activities, I decided that if I'm going to add another tradition to our long to-do list to make the season bright, it had better fit one or more of the following criteria: 

1) Make us more mindful of the Christ Child
2) Help those less fortunate
3) Bring our family closer together

This little Elf guy does not do any of those things. In fact, he instead adds anxiety to an already hectic season. From the "Oops! I forgot to move him last night!" To scouring Pinterest Elf on the Shelf ® boards to find the cutest creative ideas for Elf activity, only to then compare our Elf photos to others on Facebook and feel like we've come up short. It would be an unnecessary addition of stress to my life.

I just don't have time for that.

That said, if you do have time for Elf shenanigans in your home, here is a link to a blog post by a mom who takes a different approach with their family Elf, entitled "Jesus, Santa & the Elf on the Shelf." 

May you make many happy memories together as a family, however you choose to celebrate. Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas!


  1. I've never heard of Elf on a Shelf but I'm with you. I'd prefer to keep things old school!

    1. Me too, Tiff! Merry Christmas to you guys, Monster & Elvira!

  2. Kristi, our daughter Maggie says it is just weird and she doesn't like the way his eyes look. Another friend of mine son said," Really Mom, just send it back that is just not smart. Only Jesus can know all those things about me". (he was only 5 at the time)

    1. That Maggie is a smart one! Merry Christmas Elizabeth!

  3. I completely agree - I don't think we do kids any favors by training them to depend on external motivations to behave. I think even good old fashioned Santa Claus is supposed to be more about teaching the joy of altruism - not the naughty and nice list. I think long-term, not just Christmas season, behavior improves when kids know that good behavior is expected and appreciated all the time.

    1. I agree, Stephanie! Thank you for the educator's perspective!

  4. While I enjoy seeing some of the creative ways people display their elves this isn't a holiday tradition we've wanted to start in our home. Too much pressure for the parents and the kid. As the parent of an anxious child, I think the elf would cause him much stress, thinking even the most minor infraction would put him on the naughty list.

    1. Hi Amy! Love your Atta Girl blog! I agree that there are some creative ways to use the Elf, particularly in schools and other fun ways that do not hang a threat over children's head that I'm not opposed to. I, too, have an anxious and sensitive child and fear it would make him worry unnecessarily. Thanks for your feedback!