Elf on the Shelf – Don’t get me started!

Can you believe it? Here we are at the start of December and the holiday season is going to be quickly upon us.

There are many things about the holidays that I love, the chance to cozy up by the fire or watch a great game of football (Come on, Patriots!). I love the sense of occasion, the feeling that it’s a special time of year.

But, there’s one thing mama, that makes me kinda mad.

I remember one mama waiting at basketball practice telling me that she loved December with her younger kids.

She said it was so much easier…

I was puzzled how this could be as generally, there’s so much going on over the holidays, and that just adds extra pressure, tension, and frayed nerves.

‘Oh,’ she said ‘we’ve got an elf on the shelf, and the kids know that Santa won’t bring them any presents if the elf sees them misbehaving.’

I took a deep intake of breath. You see I hate those things…

People buy an elf and put it on a shelf. They tell their kids that the elf is watching them to see if they are behaving well.

If they don’t behave well, the elf will tell Santa who then will cross presents off the list of things that he was going to bring them.

Sometimes there’s even the threat of NO PRESENTS!

I’ve seen them used in a fun way, where the elf gets up to antics in the house, and each morning the kids have to search out the elf and find out what mischief it’s been up to…

But to use it as surveillance?

I ask you, would you like if your boss installed a security camera in your office to watch you all the time, and if you didn’t behave the way he wanted you to your pay got slashed?

Nope, didn’t think so.

So why do we do this to kids?

Sure you can try to justify it and say it’s just a bit of fun…

But does it feel like fun to the child?

Does it feel nice to know that your every move is being watched and that if you mess up, no presents are going to come your way?

I don’t think so.

Here’s the other thing parents, now I’m on my soapbox….

Stay with me here.

Even if the elf could see the child and judge it’s behavior, the elf would only see the outward behavior of the child. It would never know what was really going on for them.

So the elf sees the kid act out and sees them having a storm of emotion…

The elf elfmails Santa to tell him to cross presents off the list.

But the thing is the elf has no idea what’s really going on for the child. The elf has no idea about the child’s feelings and needs.

That’s why I encourage the parents I work with to GET CURIOUS, NOT FURIOUS!

When a child acts up what’s really going on for them?

Are they tired?

Are they hungry?

Did they have a tough day at school when they didn’t get picked for the team?

Did they spend recess on their own?

The elf can’t ask. It sees what it sees and then punishes.

You CAN find out what’s REALLY going on for your child.

When you do, you open the door to a whole load more understanding and connection.

Those kinds of feelings feel a whole lot cozier than judgment and threats.

Maybe it works so well to use the elf, and it feels that nothing else does? Peaceful Parent, I need you to know that threats and punishments aren’t the answer.

Building connection works a whole load better and is much more sustainable.

Maybe you’ve already bought an elf?

Can you have the elf get up to mischief and laugh about its behavior together?

Here are some ideas:

  • Spilled ingredients on the table.
  • Elf with empty chocolate wrappers/plate with biscuit crumbs.
  • Elf hanging from Christmas tree, tied on upside-down.
  • Elf with muddy prints or snow prints made with sugar.
  • Elf playing with your child’s other toys (e.g. toy tea party)
  • Elf playing on gaming equipment.
  • Elf in dolls’ house or doll’s bed.
  • Elf wearing item of child’s clothing. (e.g. a sock or in a shoe)
  • Elf with paper that is scribbled on.
  • A letter from Elf saying the great things he or she has noticed about your kid. (e.g. a time the elf noticed your kid being kind or showing determination)
  • A letter that the elf has written to Santa about why it’s enjoying being in your home.
  • Elf hiding in cereal box at breakfast.
  • Elf reading a book your child loves.
  • Elf with art materials set out, and it looks as though they’ve been painting.
  • Elf in someone’s bed.
  • Elf balancing on pile of boxes from recycling.
  • Come up with creative ideas with your child about the mischief that the elf could get up to and set things up together.
  • Elf taking S –ELF– IE – sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun. 🙂

You get to choose to make the holidays a time of connection.

I hope these ideas give you some inspiration for connection.

Lisa Smith
About the author

Lisa Smith