I often compare my plans when it came to parenting and how parenting young children actually seizes you and throws you in directions you never expected, and weirdly enough, Elf on the Shelf is on that list.
What is Elf on the Shelf?
The Elf on the Shelf is a doll and book combo that you can find in almost every store. You buy the elf, give it a name, and place it on the shelf. The children are never to touch it as touching removes the magic that allows the elf to return to Santa every night and give a report on their behavior. The elf is known to pull pranks and do silly things when returning from Santa. Some parents love it because all you have to say is “Behave. The elf is watching,” and the children are suddenly good.
As time progressed, I started thinking of this little Elf on the Shelf and decided to ban the elf on the shelf from my home.
I have 7 reasons why we decided to ban the Elf on the Shelf from our home.
1. The Elf on the shelf is always watching for mistakes.
The little doll can give the impression that someone is always waiting for you to mess up. The elf’s entire job is to report your good or bad behavior to Santa. It is possible that this could lead a child 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. Perhaps angels are the elves. 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. I feel like the elf is a tattle teller.
The elf sees bad behavior and runs to Santa just to record in a book. “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. The Elf encourages “me” focused behavior.
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. The Elf could display bad examples.
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 different elves did. Some of them are downright funny. However, other examples include drawing evil faces on photographs on the wall, 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, and more.
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. There are some Troubling objections by professionals.
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 more than 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.
But what if you have an Elf but now regret it?
Most parents I’ve talked to have focused on the behavior side of the elf. Some parents have said, all I have to do is say, “If you’re bad, the elf will tell Santa,” and they are instantly good. If you have an elf, but now regret it, maybe you could change your approach. Start the day with “What good things are we going to do for people that our elf could tell Santa? Maybe we bake cookies for the elderly people around us.” Another idea would be “Why don’t you help me clean up the living room and the elf can tell Santa about that?” Instead of using the elf to punish, use it to affirm positive action.
Likewise, maybe the elf’s pranks could be kind and helpful (with a few funny ones thrown in, of course). For example, ever seen the toy’s in a massive heap. Maybe the elf could be rescuing a small stuffed animal trapped under a tractor. Maybe it could sit by the sink as if it did the dishes.
But What if you do some of the things of the elf but not use the elf doll?
Last year we did the nativity scene a little differently. We set up the stable and had Joseph and Mary “travel” across the house. The Wise Men came from a different direction to the manger scene. (Yes, I know that the Wise Men were actually later, but they are often in the Christmas story.) This year I plan on having a star tacked with tape to the ceiling to move with the Wise Men. Meanwhile, the shepherds can “rescue” the sheep from “cliffs” (also known as couches). My children loved it and became very determined that Jesus could not be placed into the manger until Christmas morning.
If you have an Elf on the Shelf, let me know what you love and dislike about it? Do you have any other fun ideas that don’t include the Elf on the Shelf?