How to Have a Good Elf on the Shelf

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We have an Elf on the Shelf. She’s cute, the kids love it, and my husband and I take turns putting her into creative situations. Mine are like moving her into a cup whereas he constructs toilet paper snowmen and foam bath tubs. This isn’t an article to shun you for your elaborate elf staging or seemingly excessive amounts of free time.

How to Have a Good Elf on the Shelf

As someone who likes to go crazy with birthday parties I get it, we all have things we really enjoy devoting our attention too. Besides, there’s more than enough articles out there criticizing people having fun. Which is kind of hypocritical of me to say given the following opinions.

Big Brother Elf

Recently I read an article that a professor claims the Elf on the Shelf sets kids up for adulthood acceptance of a military police state – Big Brother style. The idea is that it makes kids accepting of constant monitoring and no privacy with repercussions, therefore it will be OK later for say, security cameras in their home.

On the surface I understand what he’s getting at, but I don’t really follow how that’s different than saying something like Santa is always watching or, possibly even more commonly accepted, a God of some kind that watches everything you do and punishes you for eternity.

Do not use Elf on the Shelf to overly stress monitoring of children into compliance

The Elf on the Shelf is a little messenger for Santa that reports back. The book and creators imply that it should be a lot of fun, and something that you could easily use to stress positive reinforcement for good behaviour. A lot of parents instead use it as a tool to encourage, sometimes scare, children into behaving for fear of losing their Christmas gifts from Santa.

This isn’t much different to my parents threatening to call the big guy when I misbehaved in December, only they never did. Now kids get these warning cards or lettres from either Santa or the Elf. I’m not against these, per se, especially as a way to gently remind extreme behaviour is not acceptable, but many people take them too far. Expecting total compliance and issuing a warning for normal childhood behaviour is not OK. A good Elf on the shelf doesn’t give your kids anxiety.

Do not use the Elf on the Shelf as a punishment tool

I briefly touched on the slightly overachieving elf movers who are often criticized by other parents who chose to do less or cannot do more. It’s not necessary to bring down someone else to do your own thing even if you’re not someone who will literally move the elf from one shelf to the next. Instead of calling out other people for what they’re doing, you do you. There’s nothing inadequate about having different priorities to someone else and it’s not “lazy” to do something else with that time you have.
Do not compare your Elf on the Shelf to other people’s, feel bad for yourself, or make anyone else feel bad.

A Good Elf on the Shelf does good things

The Elf is visiting for fun, but the whole idea is to encourage positive behaviour and give the kids a little bit of Christmas magic. Why are people making the Elf on the Shelf naughty? It’s incredibly hypocritical to tell children to behave while yourself misbehaving, plus it’s terribly confusing for young children. I personally don’t find “elf poop” to be amusing, but we don’t do any toilet humour in our house. We’re not prudish, I just think it’s immature. Either way, the elf doing things we wouldn’t want our kids doing is probably not a good idea.

Do not make your Elf on the Shelf do bad things

No matter what holiday you celebrate, this time of year is about more than the Elf on the Shelf. Kindness Elves are gaining popularity as an alternative tradition. Whatever your traditions or celebrations, don’t only focus on fake elves and presents from a magician. If you’ve chosen not to do the Elf on the Shelf tradition, don’t feel like you have to just because it’s so popular. I personally find it really cute, and the kids enjoy it, so we will continue. We don’t use it as a way to control the kids so much as it is an exciting thing to wake up to every morning.

There’s a lot of criticism for the elf, and as always you have to do what’s best for your family.

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