While I like the idea of of the Elf on the Shelf and see the fun behind it, I have decided to ban the elf on the shelf from my home. I find these 7 reasons against it too compelling to invite this little doll into the house.
What is the Elf on the Shelf? You buy a kit that has a book and a small doll that looks like an elf. (The Santa kind, not the Tolkien kind. If it were the Tolkien kind, I’d have 20.) The books sets up the situation: The elf gets its Christmas magic when you record the name you give him/her on the certificate in the back of the book. Then the elf watches the children all day. At night, the elf then flies back to the North Pole and reports if they have been good or bad. The elf comes back before the kids wake.
I see what fun it could be. The pranks, the mischief, the fun. I get it. My personality type would love it as a Christmas tradition. As a mom, all I would have to do to get my daughter behave is point to the elf and remind her that it was watching.
Despite the fun and the trick of making kids behave, there are 7 reasons why we ban the elf on the shelf from our Christmas traditions.
1. Watching for Mistakes
It promotes the thought that someone is always waiting for you to mess up. This in turn could lead you to think that God is just sitting up in the clouds waiting for you to make a mistake so that He can snatch your gifts away. Also, as far as I can tell, there is no way to gain forgiveness from the elf or Santa. Once you mess up, it’s in your record book forever.
2. Tattle Teller
The elf is essentially a tattler teller. “Johnny didn’t eat his peas!” We have other words for this: gossiper, snitch, busybody, and meddler. Yet we praise the elf for this very action and say he’s “helping” Santa.
3. “Me” Focused
For me, the elf goes against the spirit of Christmas. Remember “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry? Its whole story was about sacrificing in order to give to another person – something that is modeled after God’s gift of Jesus. Christmas is when Jesus sacrificed his right to Heaven’s throne and came to Earth. I want my daughter to be focused in Christmas as a season if giving, not getting. The elf encourages an attitude of getting, as the attention is focused on what I can do to get what I want.
4. Bad Example
The elf, by most of accounts, is kind of bad. Now I love a good prank, and I see all sorts of funny pictures of what a different elves did. Some of them are downright funny. Eating a bunch of chocolate with wrappers flung around, drawing evil face on photographs on the wall, or playing video games. However, most of them are downright bad. Glass in the sump pump, making a mess with toothpaste in the bathroom, poker night complete with empty beer cans with stuffed animals, being naughty with Barbie and/or other toys, being caught in the act of murder, drinking with other toys, and more.
I understand people can mess up anything, but I’m saying that I rarely see the elf doing dishes, cleaning up, or helping out around the house. So why should I put a character in my daughter’s life that gets away with murder?
5. Don’t Touch
One rule of the elf is that the kids can’t touch it. If they do, the magic will disappear. As a mom, I understand that this is a great idea. However, what does this teach? One of my favorite stories of Jesus is when he says to let the children come to him. Can you picture him playing with the children? God in flesh on his hands and knees, chasing after little children who shriek with laughter? I want my daughter to run to Jesus, cling to him in times of trouble, and hold his hand when walking on stormy seas.
6. Troubling Objections
I’m not convinced that it’s the best tradition to install in my daughter. Psychology Today posted an article in 2012 called “Let’s Bench the Elf on the Shelf.” In this article, David Kyle Johnson, Ph.D., who also wrote against Santa Claus, lists as four objections to the elf. He says…
“It’s a lie, it threatens your parental trustworthiness, and it encourages credulity.”
He continues by explaining these three reasons against the elf and then continues with the fourth problem with this tradition.
“A fourth objection to all this Christmas lying—an objection to something that can be present in the Santa Claus lie as well, but is the main purpose of The Elf on the Shelf lie: goading your children into behaving with promises of future lavish reward.”
I don’t want to raise my daughter into thinking that if you act a certain way, you get good things. The reason for obedience isn’t directly related to what you get. I don’t want her to be entitled and start to think – “I did this and this and this, so I get that. This is what the Pharisees of Jesus’ time believed. We can never work ourselves into eternal life. We accept the gift God gave us.
7. Christ is Enough
Finally, Christmas doesn’t need help. The story of Jesus being born is a story that still awes and inspires me. The sacrifice of giving gifts to each other fills my heart with love. When we focus on the real meaning of Christmas, we find no need for a little elf.
How about a substitute? Maybe you like things about the elf but don’t want to use it. Any thoughts of what you could do?
Try the nativity scene. Set up the stable. Have Joseph and Mary “travel” across the house to it. Tack a star dangling from the ceiling and move it each night with the Wise Men following it. (Yes, I know that the Wise Men were actually later, but they are often in the Christmas story.) Have the shepherds “rescue” the sheep from “cliffs” (or off couches). You can still keep to the real meaning of Christmas and yet have some fun with it.
Do you have an elf on the shelf? Why do you have it? Do you think it detracts or enhances the meaning of Christmas?