Revamp: The Elf On The Shelf


In the event you aren’t familiar with what The Elf On The Shelf is, here’s a bit of a rundown:

This story describes how Santa’s “scout elves” hide in people’s homes to watch over events. Once everyone goes to bed, the scout elf flies back to the North Pole to report to Santa the activities, good and bad, that have taken place throughout the day. Before the family wakes up each morning, the scout elf flies back from the North Pole and hides. By hiding in a new spot each morning around the house, the scout elf plays an ongoing game of hide and seek with the family. The Elf on the Shelf explains that scout elves get their magic by being named and being loved by a child. In the back of each book, families have an opportunity to write their elf’s name and the date that they adopted it. Once the elf is named, the scout elf receives its special Christmas magic, which allows it to fly to and from the North Pole.

The book tells how the magic might disappear if the scout elf is touched, so the rule for The Elf on the Shelf states, “There’s only one rule that you have to follow, so I will come back and be here tomorrow: Please do not touch me. My magic might go, and Santa won’t hear all I’ve seen or I know.” Although families are told not to touch their scout elf, they can speak to it and tell it all their Christmas wishes so that it can report back to Santa accurately.

The story ends on Christmas Day with the elf leaving to stay with Santa for the rest of the year until the following Christmas season.

Before having a child of my own I didn’t give it much thought. It seemed cute and neat. However, as my son grows up and I focus more on the ways I would directly like to parent differently and efficiently I hit a few roadblocks with the idea of incorporating this or any similar character into our lives.

If I were to incorporate the elf (or whatever being) I would do it in a much different aspect than it is commonly used, for a few different reasons.

– I don’t want my son to feel like we (his parents) or anyone else is always watching him. I don’t want his fear of being under constant supervision to be his only driving force toward acting appropriately. Being such, our character would not be a new age stalker (not always watching you). Instead, our character could be simply a seasonal friend to share stories with (Christmas/holiday books).

– It’s become common practice to pose the Elf in different scenes of mischief or caught up in some trouble. I would choose to not have our character be a trouble maker. Children commonly learn from example, if we’re incorporating this being to be our child’s friend/mentor I don’t like the idea of different displays of chaos (though they may be humourous on an adult level). Maybe the character has a new suggestion of a way to share cheer that day. Such as coloring a picture for a family member or some sort of positive action the child can take place in that associates doing good, feeling good, and “being good” with his character friend.

I’m not supportive of the idea of negative reinforcement to counteract negative behavior. I don’t want my son to believe if he has a difficult day, someone is always watching and going to report on him. If he’s having a tough day with his emotions and just can’t quite figure it out, I don’t want him to feel even worse by thinking someone is going to go tell “Santa” and his Christmas is going to be negatively affected because of it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not naive enough to believe children don’t reach a point of intentional boundary testing and misbehavior. I do believe we as adults can help children place words to their feelings and actions and encourage learning and growth from experiences.

I like the “magic” of Christmas and allowing them to have that fun side with things like the Elf on The Shelf but I don’t like manipulative / reward system tactics.

I don’t believe in fear to get the behavior we want.

For example; “I’m going to tell X if you don’t brush your teeth and you won’t get X.” 

Honesty. No matter what age you are, you can appreciate honesty. Even if in the moment it means nothing to you when my son looks back on his childhood I want him to see the times I spoke truly to him.

So, we can try:

Brush your teeth because

1.) Germs (simple term) create bad breath and hurt your teeth.

2.) You need your teeth for your whole life to eat the foods you like so we have to take care of them.

3.) Brushing helps wash away the germs and keep your teeth in good shape.

Some of the trends that blow up online with ways to shape kids thoughts and beliefs are really just sad. 

Earlier this evening I came across a DIY craft of security camera stickers and words saying “SANTA CAM”. Since I had earlier sat and thought about my beliefs and feelings toward these types of trends I immediately thought beyond the surface level of, yes it’s a cute idea, but what are the beliefs we are instilling in our children by using these types of things?

Which it’s a bit ironic because I have seen our generation become the most “big brother” fearing, “tin foil hat” wearing generation with your Ring cameras stalking your every move, people covering up their laptop webcams, Facebook linking products you hadn’t even spoken out loud but only crossed your mind. We’re a society of being so conscious of “who’s watching” and how do we protect our privacy but we don’t give that same respect to our children who have no say in the matter. On an emotional level, what kind of shaping are we doing? Is it fear producing? Prohibiting independence? We’re early in the stages of being able to produce results from studies on how these things influence the mindset of our children but that doesn’t mean we can’t be actively aware of what trends we choose to follow.

Children are people too.

They have thoughts, feelings, and they are just as deserving of privacy (in safe environments) as any of us.

They are not products we own, they aren’t pets who will never grow beyond the walls of our homes.

They are humans.

They are our next generation.

Each and every thing we do for our children has an impact on what type of person they grow up to be.

With the recent release of more information surrounding epigenetics [read more about epigenetics here], we are learning that “they’ll be who they’ll be” is the least accurate description we can put.

Your choices affect your child before your child is born,

your choices affect your child when they are an infant,

when they are a toddler, and so on.

By no means is anyone perfect nor is anyone going to achieve perfect parenting but if we remain open-minded and do a little research we can give them the best shot at being the best they can be.


  1. I really like this perspective! Sometimes it’s easier to parent from a place of fear but it’s so much better not too. I try to parent intentionally and completely agree that I don’t think it’s okay for kids to have to worry so much about having completely normal emotions, such as anger.

    Liked by 1 person

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