For those unfamiliar with The Elf on the Shelf, it’s a freakishly-cheery Christmas-themed doll and the protagonist of the 2005 children’s book of the same name; its premise: an elf sits on the shelf and delivers reports of the children’s behavior to Santa Claus each year.
Personally, I see it as a stupid marketing gimmick by the book’s publishing company.
I have a couple questions for the parents who participate in this ridiculously annoying meme every year.
Do you only aim to motivate your kids to do their chores one month a year?
The Elf on the Shelf elves are only brought out of storage after Thanksgiving, it seems. What do your kids do the rest of the year?
More importantly: Why do you need an elf?
Maybe it’s fun for you, but if that’s the case, maybe you’re just obsessed—an elf, really? An elf working for Santa Claus, really?
“Always watching”, really?
I come from a childhood in which my guardians told me they always knew what I was doing. This doesn’t build motivation or good behavior—it builds paranoia and brainwashes kids to truly think, and fear, someone is always watching them—and that it’s okay if someone else is watching them. When you fear someone is always watching you, you begin to lose trust in not only everyone else, but in reality as well. It’s horrible. I’m barely five years into rebuilding that trust and battling paranoia, but it’s a great struggle.
Moreover, you’re beyond a little white lie of Santa Claus’ existence, because you’re using a stupid toy elf to do your bidding—your dirty work. When they learn the truth—that you’ve been lying to them this whole time—how proud of yourself will you feel then? Will it all have been worth it?
Just because it’s fun and games for you—and seemingly for them right now—doesn’t mean it isn’t going to affect them psychologically.
Instead of using the Elf on the Shelf…
Instead of relying on a boogeyman-hybrid-elf, use the doll for decoration and implement chore charts or something.
Kids aren’t your slaves to control—and yes, I’m taking this personally, but as an adult whose own mother lost her daughter’s trust through constant lies and schemes, please rethink what you’re doing to your kids. The doll is freaky, and you’re creating a physical symbol of a lie you started from a fun fairy tale for your child.
I’m not saying I’m against Santa Claus—I’m saying lies about fictional beings, made real with a traditional physical symbol such as ‘Elf on the Shelf’, are no longer little white lies: they’re full-fledged realities awaiting tragic, rude awakenings.
Implement chore charts or something, and use the elf as a fun, no-strings-attached scavenger hunt or mere decoration. Or opt out of the fad altogether.
What are your thoughts on The Elf on the Shelf?
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i agree with some of your opinions reguarding the elf, boogyman like – making them fear something so you get good behaviour … i have no kids but when i do i dont think i will partake in this trending christmas thing . most parents say “i started because i didnt want them to go to school and find out they were not getting visited and make them feel bad”.
Oh man, I so agree with you! Why on earth do I (a) want to give myself more work in order to (b) teach my kids to do things under fear? It is such an odd concept that I cannot wrap my head around. I think your personal response to it is reasonable and valid. Our end game should be trust, not a loss of it. Thank you for writing this!