Take the Elf OFF the Shelf!

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Santa as a spy who has an obsession with behavior modification--ick!

I have a bone to pick with Santa.  As much as I love the big guy I am really tired of the part of him that is a parent-power-sucking-sponge.  The whole naughty or nice thing has several issues (um, are poor kids or kids in orphanages naughty?)  But the idea of Santa as a spy who is really into behavior modification has a lot of parents compounding the problem.

Santa must be sick of tattle tales!
For some folks who struggle with discipline, Santa is like a big fat permission slip to be wimpy parents.  When we attempt to secure desired behavior through the threat or promise of Santa instead of handling the problem ourselves, in essence we’re saying, “I can’t handle this, maybe you’ll behave for Santa.”  Or, sometimes it has the flavor of mom or dad tattletale-ing to Santa as in, “Do you want me to call Santa and tell him what you’re doing?”

The Elf on the Shelf sucks up money out of your wallet AND parental competency.

Shelve the elves!
Bad as all that is, merchandisers have come up with another way to suck up both our money and our parental competency!   The Elf on the Shelf.   The idea is that you buy a cute little elf to sit somewhere in you house.  During the day, he watches the children.  At night, he goes to the North Pole to report the children’s behavior to Santa and appears in a different spot the next morning, ready to spy on the children again.  In the meantime, parents are able to threaten their children with the elf and the possibility of no presents or an unhappy Santa.  Cute, huh?

Santa or the Elf on the Shelf may help bring a little “peace on earth” in the short term, but if parents rely on them during the holidays what happens on December 26th?  Not only is that parenting crutch tool gone, but they’ve been busy sending their child messages of incompetency for weeks and may have accidentally dug themselves into a hole that is not easy to get of.

Do you suffer from Santa or elf dependence?
How do you know if there’s a problem?  Well, some pretty good indicators are having to repeat directions several times, changing your directions to try to gain compliance, scolding, threatening, giving in or punishments or rewards that just don’t seem to make a lasting impact overall.  All this leaves an incredibly exhausted, frustrated and stressed out parent–not to mention a child who is ultimately not happy either.

Take back your parent power!
Fortunately, even if you’ve fallen into a trap where you’ve given your parenting power away to someone else, with some knowledge and a lot of determination you CAN get back to where you need to be.  It starts with taking back your parent power and learning how to manage power struggles.  One resource is our recorded course Discipline: Managing Your Child’s Bid for Power   But, at the very least, forget about using Santa as a means to control a child’s behavior and if you must put the elf on the shelf, just let him sit there and look cute–don’t make him spy for Santa!

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4 Responses to “Take the Elf OFF the Shelf!”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    There’s a dvd , be warned its about a kid who doesn’t believe any more, then he’s sucked back into believing. I’d like to see them put out a part two :when he’s at school and runs into that kid that asks ”you don’t still believe in Santa do you……HA”! He comes home and the parents break the news to him. Its bad story telling. Secondly, there should be believing and then one day you don’t, if at all possible there shouldn’t be doubt, IF at all possible. I caught my mother one Xmas night, I had doubt after that and spent 3 Xmas’s with it until I asked her. I suspected, I SUSPECTED! You already have ”that kid” out there who may get to your kid before you do , then trying to wrap and build bikes without getting caught, why , why and in a lot of cases, begin a childs’ life with The Elf On The Shelf movie/to instill that there’s even the possibility of doubt. No to the spy aspect and the parenting aspect, and on the ”no touch” policy, my God this thing comes with instructions. My niece(3) is living in fear she’s gonna suck the flight and magic out of it if she brushes against the thing and it will end up in the hospital(all due to the story/DVD). She’s a risk taker as well, I see her eyes light up as the kid goes to touch the Elf in that scene and she’s filled with suspense. So if you have one of these kids , I’ll go out on a limb and say the story/the movie promotes a deviant relationship with the Elf more than a magical one. She’s walking around this year asking us all if WE believe in Santa and Christmas!? If I could do it all again=Elf=sure COULDA been fun if=no DVD, I’d relocate it as she slept every night and tell her she’s just pretending to be a toy AS ANYMORE THEY ARE PUT ON DISPLAY FIRST THING IN EVERY TOY STORE. My niece is smart, she saw it this year and said ”oh …it’s a toy” and brushed it off. I’m not a parent myself but I see what went wrong with this product and how if her mother continues to put so much stock in this Elf leading aaaaaaaaaaaaaall the way up to Christmas Days? Sigh, I just know my experience as a kid, there was a tree, Santa is coming, I’ll never shake hands with the man Xmas night, lets check and see if he ate the cookies. If she was my kid I’d have told her the Elf had a skiing accident and we won’t be seeing her again after her mother followed the ”rules” of this new fad to the T. Ask yourselves ”do we really need something else”? Is Christmas hurting somehow it now needs help? Next it’ll be uuuuuuuh, well, just imagine a scene as if you took all your roof and lawn Xmas decorations and put them in your living room I guess. I highly recommend no DVD.

  2. Chris Bailey Says:

    We did the Elf on the Shelf thing as a fun thing with no behavioral ties to his existence. He shows up and hangs out with us between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Our kids share all of their Christmas wishlist items with “Elfy” and we parents do comical things with him so the kids can wake up to his shenanigans every morning. We had an incident last week with another family and we were told that we were not “following the rules”. It’s fun for us and exciting for the kids in the time leading up to Christmas. Yes, so we didn’t follow the “rules” but we are not surrendering our parenting authority to inanimate objects or spiritual deities. Gotta keep it real and keep it accountable. In fact, the ones in the stores are the “fake” ones, our Elfy is the real deal! (-:

  3. amber Says:

    Just as an FYI, this was not merchandisers who came up with the idea. It was a school teacher mom that did it for her children when she was young and her duaghter passed along the TRADITION to her children. They published the book themselves after several rejections from publishing company. I understand your disgust with parents relying on Santa for punishment, however, don’t bring the Elf on the Shelf into this as it is only a TRADITION (as stated on the front of the book). If you watch the movie, you will see that it’s about the magic and belief in the Christmas spirit.

    • Katie Prigel Sharp Says:

      Perhaps it began as a cute, fun tradition, but I think the description on the Barnes and Noble website helps perpetuate the idea of the Elf being a “Santa Spy” on the lookout for naughty or nice behavior.

      Overview from http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/elf-on-the-shelf-carol-v-aebersold/1018468021
      “The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition™ is an activity the entire family will enjoy. Based on the tradition Carol Aebersold began with her family in the 1970s, this cleverly rhymed children’s book explains that Santa knows who is naughty and/or nice because he sends a scout elf to every home. During the holiday season, the elf watches children by day and reports to Santa each night. When children awake, the elf has returned from the North Pole and can be found hiding in a different location. This activity allows The Elf on the Shelf to become a delightful hide-and-seek game.”

      Granted, one could use it differently, but it’s important to really think it through!

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