What’s Up with The Elf?

Unless you live under a rock, I’m sure you’re aware of the newish Christmas tradition — The Elf on the Shelf. This is a silly story that someone dreamed up about a mischievous elf that watches over the children of the house to see who is bad and who is good and reports back to Santa each night.

Every morning said elf appears in a new spot (the book comes with a little stuffed elf), forcing the parents who were foolish enough to buy the set or unfortunate enough to receive it as a gift to get creative each night and come up with a new hiding place, and in the morning the kids have fun finding him.

Sounds fun and harmless, right?

I s’pose, except I can’t even remember to put the Tooth Fairy money under the proper pillow every couple of months, say nothing of move an elf every night during the busiest month of the year. And besides, am I the only one who is bothered by the moral implications of this tradition?

If you are good, you will receive gifts, and if you are bad, you will not?

Except we all know that they will, because what modern parent is going to really withhold Christmas presents from their child for bad behavior? (If you can do that, then you are made of stronger stuff than I am, that is for sure!)

And even if they did, what is that teaching them in the end?

Now don’t get me wrong, we do enjoy Santa around here, and while I’ve never taught my kids to believe that he is real, we have the story books, and we play along. But I have never told my kids that they better be good because Santa is watching or any of that nonsense. I want my kids to be good because it is the right thing to do, not because they might be rewarded (which, we all know, is not how life works anyway. And let’s not get started on how it contradicts the doctrine of grace for those of us who are believers.)

In my mind, the Elf on the Shelf is the icing on the cake.

I have largely kept my mouth shut and gone along with this silly little game because my kids think it’s fun (I did NOT buy the set, but my daughter begged her grandmother for it, and you know how that usually ends up… yes, we got the set in the mail one day last December) and I figure it is fairly harmless.

And fortunately, my husband is a lot more fun than I am and is willing to take responsibility for finding a new hiding spot for elphie every most nights.

But when my friend Cecily inquired on Facebook about Christmas traditions we find disturbing, I found myself chiming in:

I hate the elf and I have never told my kids that if they don’t be good Santa won’t come. I think that is a deceitful parenting tactic. I do, however, have the stupid elf b/c my daughter BEGGED for one. She doesn’t believe in the story (or Santa, or the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy… the list goes on, she is contrary like that) but she wants one just the same and DEMANDS he gets moved every night, for her little sister, who is determined to believe in every make believe novelty that comes down the pike… how can 2 kids be so different!? LOL!

Then I did what every good blogger does. I immediately opened a new tab in my browser and wrote a post about it.

(Seriously, you should read the entire thread on her Facebook post. It is highly entertaining.)

Besides all that, parents everywhere are even getting into the madness, taking pictures every day of their elf in his latest hiding place, and posting them to all their social networks. Some are quite creative and fun, I will admit, but as far as I’m concerned, that’s just one more thing to make the rest of us feel inadequate. As if it weren’t enough to be bombarded with all the Martha-esque holiday decor and clever craft ideas every time I open Instagram.

Bah humbug.

Now, lest you think I’m a total Scrooge, there are lots of holiday traditions that I can get behind. I love taking the family to a local tree farm and cutting down our Christmas tree. I even let them help me decorate it if I’m feeling generous.

And I’m all about the advent calendar — especially the cheap cardboard ones you get at Trader Joes that have a chocolate candy behind each door. No work for me, and the kids think I’m awesome because they get to have a candy before breakfast.

See, I can be fun. I just don’t get the fascination with the Elf.

I am curious. What are your thoughts on the Elf on the Shelf? Do you have one? Do you play along? Do you think it is fun and harmless or creepy or downright deceitful?

Inquiring minds . . .

Join the Conversation

54 thoughts on “What’s Up with The Elf?

  1. For those that do it for fun and show the cute little pranks, that’s kind of cute. My daughter is a little rule follower. I’m pretty sure she would’ve been almost “admit to the childrens psych hospital” psychotic if we would’ve done the elf with the sheer purpose of monitoring behavior. I think it’s mean if you do it that way and takes the joy out of an otherwise super fun holiday.

    And honestly, if you have to resort to threats like that to get your kid to behave at Christmas time (when the threat of the big red man already looms so large for most kids) then you’ve got some serious issues and you need more than a crummy plastic elf to help out.

  2. I love our little elf and enjoy thinking up fun little things for it to do at night while were sleeping. Although I also love Pinterest and Facebook to find those cute little things so I don’t have to rack my brain creating them :-). This year is the first year we have been assigned a real Elf on the Shelf. For the past three years we’ve had Minty, who didn’t come with a book or a box or any of that. He does however bring gifts pretty much every day. Just little treats, but the kids love it! Hubby and I have never used it threaten no presents though because I’m not into idle threats. If I tell my kids we’re leaving, we are, or if they aren’t getting something, they truly aren’t. I don’t play those games so saying Santa isn’t going to bring presents isn’t going to happen. I also teach my kids that we all make mistakes and inevitably at some point we are going to be “bad”, Christmastime or not. Like you, I want my kids to make the right choices all the time, not because they are going to get something.

    This year, I decided to take the elf into school with me too. He has a fancy letter to share, but no mention of Christmas or Santa, it’s just for fun. Although I confess it does say to be on your best behavior cause Tinsel (that’s our classroom elf’s name) sometimes has treats to share with the good kids. I don’t feel so bad about saying that in the classroom because at school I can use all the help I can get during the month of December!! Curious though, if your kiddos were in my classroom would you be offended that I had a classroom Elf??

    1. MEL! It is so good to hear from you!

      No, I would not be offended at all. This post was half meant in jest. We do the elf, I just do it half heartedly. 😉 Or, rather, I let my husband do it and I humor my kids when they tell me excitedly where they found him.

  3. I am grateful this came along well after we started our traditions. It seems like needless extra work for me. I don’t believe in doing little gifts or making more work for myself during the days leading up to the holidays. I think it takes too much magic away from Christmas for us.

    I totally agree that the whole ‘be good and you’ll get presents’ thing is a load of baloney. Plus you’re only setting yourself up for major ‘tude once your kids figure it out.

    I prefer our method of talking about the magic of the holiday. Even though 3 of our kids don’t ‘believe’ they know that the magic of the holiday truly lies in our hearts.

    1. “I don’t believe in doing little gifts or making more work for myself during the days leading up to the holidays.”

      A to the Men!

      Although I’m sure to the people that actually ENJOY that sort of thing, it contributes to the magic and fun of the season. For me, it is just stressful! LOL

  4. Elf on the Shelf IS fun and creative and more power to the Moms and Dads who can pull this off and have fun with it. Personally, I: 1) find the elf a little creepy 2) can’t remember to be the tooth fairy every now and then and therefore have to resort to such tactics as, “it was in your pillowcase silly!” I certainly will never remember to move the darn sprite every night, much less have the brainpower at the end of a long day to make the elf do something naughty and creative. I fear the whole thing being one big forgetful fiasco resulting in disappointed kids and a guilty me. 3) And, I mean this sincerely, for myself and my family, not anyone else, because as I said, if I were one of “those Moms” who could do it all, I would probably be posting my creative pics on Facebook as well: HOWEVER, I’m not, and if I’m going to spend the mental energy and time during the Christmas season to do something creative for my kids, I’d like to focus more on the liturgical season of Advent and preparing for the celebration of Christ’s birth. Once again, not saying that the elf thing takes away from the “reason for the season” at all…it’s good to have a little fun, but I’m just going to enjoy seeing the creativity of my friends on FB and try not to feel guilty for saying “no” to this fun, new tradition.

    1. I’m with ya! IF I was creative and fun (and I’m not, my poor kids…) then I’d like to do something more creative with the religious advent traditions.

      And yeah, I would totally be posting pictures if I was doing something picture worthy with the elf! (or any other christmas decorating, lol). You know me! I’m all about living my life publicly. HA!

  5. Personally I think they are thinking of more and more ways to take the focus off the real reason we celebrate and that’s Christ’s birth. I asked my husband the other day why people who don’t believe in Jesus, His birth and resurrection even celebrate Christmas.
    Don’t get me wrong I love all the festivities that go along celebrating Christmas. I mean it’s the grandest birthday party of all isn’t it? We have a tree and I decorate like there’s no tomorrow. We have a Christmas party and even decorate gingerbread houses. But my children know the true meaning of the season and we focus on that throughout each day and I don’t feel like they are suffering from lack of elves or Santa. We do tell them about St. Nick and how he was a real man and did good things, but if this day was about him it would be called Santamas.
    Well those are my thoughts. I loved yours and am so glad you wrote them out.
    Have a lovely day girlfriend.

    1. I actually do get why non-Christians celebrate Christmas. There are so many fun secular parts to it, in fact, I almost see it as 2 holidays that coexist (although I’m not a fan of mixing them – like Santa at the manger? UGH!)

      I even have Jewish friends who get a Christmas tree and do presents on Christmas Day.

      I don’t feel that threatens my beliefs or even Christianity in general. Yes, it might be a distraction, but for those of us who are committed to the truth of the Bible, it is on us to teach our children what we believe. It’s like every other secular teaching out there, ya know?

      But it is definitely something we as believers have to think through — how we are going to handle it in our homes, and I know that we all come to different conclusions. Some eschew all secular parts of the holiday, some combine them, some even reject the religious observances as contrary to the scripture teaching on “special days” and such.

      I actually think it is a GOOD thing, b/c it forces us to think through things and reconcile what we believe, ya know?

  6. I also dislike the Elf. Strongly dislike. We also aren’t doing Santa. He’s around in picture, decoration, movie form, but I will never set out cookies on Christmas Eve or otherwise try to convince my sons that a fat man in a red suit left them gifts. The tags on their gifts read “from Momma and Daddy” for example. So while at first I loved the Elf (I used to think he was cute, now I think he has a bit of a creepiness to him), I can’t possibly have him around in my house since his whole purpose is to report back to Santa. If Santa ain’t real, who’s he reporting to!? Anyways… I have heard, though, of one cool idea using the Elf. This mom uses him to teach her kids about naughty behavior and cleaning up after messes. I thought that teaching responsibility that way (to kids of appropriate age–mine are too young) would be a neat idea. Each morning, the kids wake up to another act of naughtiness the Elf has done and they are responsible for picking up after him and the family has a conversation about it. Can’t remember where I saw that, exactly… maybe pinterest.

  7. We have an elf but he’s a card store variety stuffed elf I got years ago as a Secret Santa gift. We call him a Tomte and use him as a way to bring our Scandinavian heritage into the holidays. Tomtes are mischevious and like to hide but they definitely don’t report to Santa. Ours likes to hide only once a week and he uses our activity Advent calendar to let us know when to look for him. He also protects our house and yard and I dearly hope he’s a good mouser since we seem to have a few around these days.

  8. I completely understand where you’re coming from. It is a little misleading if you are using the elf as a way to keep the children in line.
    However, we do the elf, santa, advent calendars and all that. Here’s why. My father didn’t believe in lying to my sister and me when we were little. When I had my first child, my mother asked me if we felt deprived not having that part of Christmas. After much thought and prayer, I decided I did feel like we missed out on a lot of fun. My sister (who is completely opposite of me most of the time) agreed.
    Our kids really only believe for a few years. Their childhood is so short and while they still have it in them to believe in this sort of “magic”, I’m going to let it ride.
    Now, we don’t harp on the “Santa’s watching” idea. In fact, I don’t recall ever mentioning that. Our advent calendar is full of family activities that, mostly, cost no money but foster being together and celebrating the TRUE meaning of the season. We attend church at home and when we go home to visit family. We read the Christmas story from the bible every year.
    For us, the secular Christmas details are just the icing on the cake. That little bit of extra fun that my kids will remember forever.

    1. Yeah, my mom sorta straddled the line. She played along with us without really trying to keep us believing. We handle it the same way. When my kids come out and ask me, I tell them that he is a story. But we still have the books and we will go see Santa at the mall and stuff. I see the Santa/elf/Rudolph stuff as part of our secular holiday traditions and have no problem participating to a point. Then as Christians we also share the Christ story with our kids as well, and take part in the religious traditions that are part of our faith. Like you, I have no problem doing both.

  9. My dad never let us believe in Santa. While we do the obligatory Santa pictures (for my entertainment more than anything – have you seen my FB profile pic? Classic!), Santa is not a big part of our holiday celebration. And honestly, my kids aren’t really interested in him. We do have an elf but ours does not “arrive” for a few more days. More than a month of hiding him? No thanks! Guess what? My kids haven’t missed the elf at all!

    1. When my dad was growing up, his parents (his father was a Baptist pastor) didn’t do Christmas at all – thought the bible taught against all religious holidays not prescribed in scripture. My mom definitely made the holidays fun for us (my dad went along with her), and we had “Santa gifts” unwrapped under the tree on Christmas morning, but we knew they came from her. We do it the same way.

      My kids ASKED for the elf this year so we are stuck with him, I think.

  10. I am with you on Sooooo many points. Here is what we started doing last year and I will try and do it again this year. We have a small tiny elf size doll and we dress her up like an angel (the kids help). Then I hide her (seriously maybe like 3 times a week, it is NOT everyday) but when you find her she comes with a note. The note has a challenge on it that they need to complete for a small reward. It might be cleaning a siblings room for them, help to put dishes away, write a nice letter for someone, help a neighbor, etc etc. The rewards can be as simple as getting to make and eat homemade cookies, hot chocolate, or a few small coins. They get excited about it and rush around to do their acts. Am I teaching them kind acts are to be rewarded? I don’t think so because we do things like this the rest of the year WITHOUT rewards – we serve often in our church and community and I am blessed to have kiddos with HUGE hearts. So this is just for a fun and the “challenge” of it. The elf thing….eh. We don’t do santa and we def don’t do no creepy little elves. LOL

      1. YES me too. The one who is watching is God and no one can trump that. And yet I still don’t harp that on my kids. I want them to have a healthy reverential fear but not one that they feel they are walking on egg shells.

    1. actually now that i am thinking about it more…i think i am going to leave out some of the “rewards” this time around. just to see what happens. perhaps one day they find the angel and she comes WITH a treat. just won’t be an everyday thing. hmmm…trying to find the balance.

  11. Ack, ok, so I keep seeing people complaining about The Elf and I’m one of those posting to Instagram every night so let me defend my position a little here.

    First off, we love Jesus a lot and my kids KNOW that Christmas is about Jesus’ birthday.

    Secondly, they don’t believe in Santa and haven’t for a long time. They are 8 and 10 now and I think when my oldest was 4, she asked, “Now tell me the TRUTH, is Santa real?” I was GLAD to tell her no. I always felt like I was lying (just me!) and was glad to put that behind us.

    But. My kids begged for an Elf and I really didn’t a- want to spend the money or b-have to worry about it every night. But I finally relented. And guess what? It is SUPER. FUN. We don’t use it traditionally to say it’s keeping an eye on them and I don’t threaten presents with him and we don’t even pretend she goes to the North Pole every night. It’s simply a fun, let’s see what Mommy and Daddy will come up to do with the elf every night. I’ve actually really enjoyed watching my husband be creative and funny and to be honest, it’s kind of charming seeing him getting involved.

    Look, I am the WORST at being the Tooth Fairy. My daughter will never let me live down the fact that I took 3 nights to remember one of her teeth. But, I’ve set a little alarm on my phone at 9:30, I check out Pinterest or tell my husband to think of something and it’s usually done in about 2 minutes.

    We’ll also do Advent calendar, we volunteer to help people, etc. This is not an either-or deal. We can celebrate Jesus AND have fun with the elf.

    I’m finally letting go a little and having fun with my kids and honestly I’m tired of people making me feel guilty for doing so.

    We all have things we’re good at. Like, sometimes *I* feel guilty when I see people going to cut down a fresh tree on Instagram but guess what? That’s not what we’re good at so we don’t do it. The only reason I share on Instagram is because it brings me joy to laugh at the elf and I think it would others too and also to help out other parents trying to think of ideas.

    I will agree that relying on an Elf for your kids to behave is not the way to go. Also, when the elf is doing things like getting drunk? No thanks.

    Blah. So there’s my rant 🙂

    1. awww… I’m totally teasing about Instagram. I actually enjoy seeing the clever things people do with him.

      and I’m all for enjoying the secular parts of the holiday as well as the religious ones! for sure. xoxo

      1. I know, that wasn’t directed at you, or at anybody really. Just finally found a place to get all my thoughts out. Maybe I should have just written a post. LOL. Thanks, friend!

        1. I agree with Amy on this. I don’t think that there is a right or wrong answer here. Some families have fun with the elf, some have different traditions. I don’t think anyone should feel bad about having an elf (or not) and I definitely don’t feel like anyone should look down on others who enjoy the tradition. We have an elf, we do Santa, and we also spend Christmas Eve each year at our church, celebrating the reason for the season. All are our family traditions, with varying importance. Like the commenter above, it does not have to be either/or. I, personally think that it is fun little tradition, and I am sad to see so much judgement in the blogosphere about the Elf on the Shelf. Everybody has a right to their opinion though, so I try to not take such judgement by strangers as a slam on my parenting.

  12. My husband and I were just discussing this the other day… We have a 3 month old, so obviously this isn’t something we’d do this year… and while we both thought it was cute we’re just not into the whole Santa thing…

  13. I just recently heard of the elf for the first time. I thought maybe I was just living under a rock or something. I think it’s just like Santa: the story is a myth, and if you have the time and inclination to keep up with all of it, go for it. I’ve always thought the Santa story would be confusing for those who believe in God: Santa is omnipresent and omniscient, but without the grace and mercy. But I tend toward bah humbug. God didn’t send his Son into the world to create an entire month of stress for us.

  14. We are Orthodox Christians, so we have actual St. Nicholas AND Holy Nativity. We do not need elves. I grew up always knowing about Santa, but as my mom told me “this is a make-believe game even adults like to play” so I enjoyed feeling like the world was in on a big imaginative game about Santa.

    The elf stuff I find rather silly and pointless, as it does not involve St. Nicholas (who was a real person and saint and did a lot of wonderful godly things!) or Christ/his Nativity. But as long as people wink at their kids so to speak and don’t try to get them to “believe” in this stuff, it is just fun make believe I think.

    We do St. Nicholas, so whenever people mention Santa, the kids know this is a make-believe version of St. Nicholas. And Jesus—well, He is real in our home year-round, especially at Nativity (Christmas) and Pascha (Easter). 🙂

  15. We have an elf in our home this year. The older two boys are in charge of placing him somewhere creatively for the younger 2. Its an opportunity for them to do something thoughtful for their younger siblings and its fun. I think its like anything, it all depends on how you handle it in your home whether its a good thing or not. I love doing fun things with our family. Santa isn’t the focus of Christmas for our family and the children know and understand why we celebrate Christmas.

  16. This is more than I’ve ever actually thought about the silly little elf! I, like you am not the creative, fun mom. 🙂 When I saw the premise of the thing, my first thought was “I am not doing that every night!” Then I saw the price and said “I am definitely not paying $30 for a stuffed elf!” When the girls inevitably asked for one, I told them how much it cost and how we could spend that money on something much more fun to celebrate Christmas. They agreed and haven’t really asked about it since. 🙂 The traditions they most look forward to are simple and (mostly) free anyway. They love cutting down a fresh tree every year, driving around in jammies on Christmas Eve to look at all the lights, finding the pickle ornament first thing on Christmas morning. (whoever finds it first, gets to open the first present.) and eating birthday cake for breakfast on Christmas morning. (we even make them wait to open any presents until after we’ve sung happy birthday to Jesus and eaten the cake.) I say as long as we’re spending quality time with our families and enjoying this magical time of the year however we feel is best for our family, we’re doing it right. 🙂 Merry Christmas!

  17. We have a three year old and a one year old and already have the elf (via a gift as well). My girls like the story that came with ours (she doesn’t do anything naughty….the elf just really wants to see the “children’s world” she’s read about in so many books and Santa chooses her after she helps a sad little pine tree grow into a big beautiful x-mas tree). Because my girls are so young, we hide it in obvious places around the house and the joy for them comes solely in looking for the elf. They say hello to her and my older daughter thinks she goes to the north pole every night to sleep with her family.

    Seems pretty harmless. I’ve never understood the “inappropriate elf” stuff….but the original story must be all about the elf doing bad things?

    Anyway, I enjoyed reading your post 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  18. I was the kid that was slightly freaked out that Santa was breaking into our house. The idea of an elf doing it every night and messing stuff up would have been horrifying to me, so I’m glad my kids are older and I don’t have to think about it.
    We did choose to celebrate St. Nicholas Day starting when the kids were young. At our house, Santa’s elves bring Christmas jammies, See’s candy and a new family game or movie. We talk about the real St. Nicholas and, along with our Advent observations, it helps us to keep our holiday season more focused. Plus, it’s only one day and a lot less work =]

    1. Every Christmas I’m reminded that I was that kid too. I was *so* terrified of Santa coming into our house at night (I did NOT understand why my parents were suddenly so cool with leaving the doors unlocked for some stranger to come in!), that my mom had to sleep with me because I was freaking out so bad. 🙂

  19. I haven’t commented in a loooong time (oops) but my sister ordered my daughter (she’s three) an elf and for me, it sounded harmless and fun. She doesn’t get the whole concept of Santa and being good or bad (she does understand that there will be presents but really, she’s only asking for some more paint and some gummy worms, seriously love this kid). She’s intrigued by him, about this unexpected visitor.

    I don’t find him creepy, really. I think it’s cute. Granted, I only have the one kid, but she’s an active toddler and I work full time and I get up to run a lot of mornings at 5:30 so my life feels just as crazy/ busy/insane but I’d never thinking that taking 30 seconds to hide an elf is too much work.

    Now taking photos and posting a daily elf pic to FB with an accompanying story? Yeah, that’s work but I’ll likely be doing that, cause. I’m a writer and I like making up stories and my job is largely social media so this is just one more trend I’m standing on top of and being hands on.

    But yes, to agree with you in some parts, I’m not about to threaten my daughter with no presents at Chrisrmas time.

    Also, I am a Such a fan of the magic and beauty of Christmas time. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up but my parents saved a lot through the year to give us very lovely Christmases. They’re might not have been excessive gifts under the tree, but we usually got what we hoped for. But really, it was more about the traditions. Opening a gift on Xmas eve, midnight mass, a midnight meal following. And Santa. I love the idea of Santa and still do and therefore take no offense in our little elf visitor that represents Santa and who we’ve named Buddy, as in, “Buddy the Elf, what’s your favorite color?” 🙂

    1. Hey Tawny! It’s nice to hear from you again. I totally get that, and honestly, this post was half in jest. It can definitely be done in a way that is harmless and fun, and we DO actually do it! (By we, I mean my husband, lol.) It’s not that it’s work, it is just the remembering that gets me. 😉 Thus my “hate” comment – which is awfully strong. I have a way of talking in extremes for effect. (As if you haven’t noticed. HA!) Anyway, I totally agree with you. I’m glad you’re having fun with him.

      1. Oh, I know it was half in jest – and from reading your posts that you have a great attitude towards Christmas 🙂

        To add, I think for me, I take comfort in knowing it won’t just be the elf by daughter remembers about Christmas, that there will be so much more, with so much more substance. A perfect example is that my daughter and I were invited to walk in our Santa Claus parade this year through my work and likely will for years to come. THAT is the stuff that will have impact and she’ll grow up remembering.

        I posted this pic pre-parade, it’s a current fave of me and my daughter and I LOVED my assigned costume :). http://fivedaysinmay.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/20121127-214322.jpg

  20. As the mom who NEVER remembered to be the Tooth Fairy, all I can say is I am SO glad that Elf wasn’t around when my girls were little. One less thing to be bothered about.

  21. Well, with 3 kids and 2 kids ages 5 and under….we do the elf (ours is Moby Dick, named by Max 3 years ago). We do move him around and it IS the 2nd most exciting activity each morning to find him (1st is the Advent calendars around the house). However, we don’t do all the pranks and like “flour angels” or mischievous antics….ours just moves. My kids believe that he does have magic and you can’t touch him or he won’t have the magic to go back to the North Pole to report to Santa.

    As much as the commercial traditions seem to have taken over our holidays….we still teach the “true reason” for Christmas in our house. Most of our Christmas books are about the Nativity and we read them nightly. We have numerous nativity scenes around the house and the baby Jesus is not put in the manger until Christmas Eve (which is an exciting activity for them that night, too). I personally believe that even though Santa is a commercial and novel theme for Christmas, it does teach that “belief” in something you can’t see or touch and having faith in something in your heart. That is exactly what we teach about God! Therefore, I don’t think of it as lying to our kids or being too wrapped up in the commercial aspects of Christmas. These are my thoughts, but everyone is entitled to their own opinion and reasons for doing or not doing certain things.

  22. I honestly didn’t like the whole Elf thing. We got the Christopher Pop-In-Kins for the fun of it. My 5 year old called us out the other night. In his words “the elf is just a toy and you guys just move it every night”. My two year old would just stare at the elf like it was a troll or something that would suddenly attack. I am honestly relieved we no longer have the elf issue. Instead we focus on the true meaning of Christmas and that has been a treat to pass on to my children.

  23. Couldn’t agree more with you about the Elf. While it’s a brilliant marketing idea, I hate the principle behind it (even though I’ve often wanted to threaten my kids with no presents!) and keep our Elf on a shelf in a box in the playroom. Thankfully, my kids don’t miss it! Great post!

  24. I’m worried about The Elf on The Shelf. Santa Claus is already kinda used as a threat or incentive to be good (as you mentioned in your post.) I don’t like the whole reward/punishment thing and the elf is just another layer of that manipulation. As a whole it’s probably innocent, especially if the parents don’t force the whole “checking up” thing, but I’m not sure if I should buy it for my daughter. She’s three now, so I’ll give myself a couple years to mull it over.

  25. I’m so happy to hear that I am not alone in my dislike and moral confusion over the elf! On the one hand, it has been fun (this is the first year we’ve done it). My 6 year old daughter can share with her friends at school (who all have elves too) where her elf appears each morning. On the the other hand, I think it’s kind of creepy. I felt really bad when I told her why our little elf was here. Her eyes got really big and she was quiet for hours mulling it over. I half expected her not to believe me, but when she completely believed every word I said about it, I felt just awful!!! I wanted to tell her the truth, but my husband stopped me because he wants her to have the full magic experience of Christmas (there’s a back story here – for my older child who is now 12, we told him the truth about Santa, Easter Bunny, etc. and were severely criticized by family for having an unchildlike child). So we compromised by agreeing that the elf stays downstairs away from her bedroom to give her some distance from it. I still believe we are setting her up for trust issues, but many tell me I’m worrying too much and overreacting. I’ll just work on strengthening her trust in me in other ways.

  26. I really like the elf. I don’t know why. Maybe because of the magic, which I think is special and is only believed in for such a short time. It is fun to pretend. I don’t get all crazy with ours and I don’t even move him around every night, but my kids love waking up in the morning and looking for him. My four year old is still talking about how he turned the milk green last year (one of the things I managed to do). The two minutes it takes me to think of a place to set him and move him is rewarded by huge smiles throughout the day. That totally makes it worth it for me.

    Now the advent calendar? For reason I just can’t seem to make that work. LOL

    1. Oh yeah, and I do post pics of him some days. But I mostly do that to give other parents ideas of what to do with theirs. I love seeing what people do with them.

  27. We do the whole Elf on the Shelf thing. We actually started this a few years ago and my boys absolutely love it. Every morning they look for “Buddy”. We just tell them that Buddy is watching over them (we don’t make a huge deal about the whole ‘you better be good thing’). I admit I forget most time to move him, but thankfully my hubby does it. I actually like this tradition because my literally I see the magic of Christmas in my kids’ eyes, for now 🙂

  28. LOL – Unfortunately, the tooth fairy is a little behind at my home. She’s doing her best. She just keeps falling asleep before the kids.

    I’m happy having fun with the elf. My kids hear about it in school. If we can do a few fun things with the elf, I know the kids will enjoy it. If not, that’s okay, too. I’ve never made a big deal about Santa other than seeing him at the mall and watching his progress on NORAD.

    We do focus on Advent, and more and more I find myself emphasizing charitable projects at home. As a Catholic, I do believe faith and works go in hand in hand. I also love my sacramentals, not that the Elf is a sacramental. My point is that I need and love visible signs of the season, and the Elf is a sign in a way, just like the Advent wreath is.

    I think another way to look at the Elf is to think about it culturally. So many cultures have come to this country bringing their own traditions which get woven into American culture, and adopted by different groups whether or not they’re of the same ethnic group. How many people are Irish on St. Patrick’s Day? How many people show up for midnight Mass on Christmas Eve even if they’re not Catholic simply because they appreciate the beauty of the Mass?

    In the end, I think each family finds what works for them. Some traditions last for a long time, and some work for a few years.

  29. I honestly believe it is harmless fun. I don’t think people post their elf being naughty to make others feel inferior. I think some people just like to share it because they actually have fun with it. I don’t have children so I don’t know what I will do when I do have them. I don’t know what i will do when it comes to Santa and the tooth fairy and all that make believe nonsense, but in the end we live in a crazy world so maybe a little make believe is good for us all. To each their own. I also read Cecily’s post and found lots of humor in it.

  30. We have one. It is fun. I don’t do any of the messy things you see on Pinterest and the like. We just move him each night. We read the book on December 1, but after that we don’t talk about him reporting back to Santa or anything–I’m with you on that. It is just a fun little thing we do at Christmas time. I totally respect where you’re coming from too.

  31. We don’t do it, even though he’s kinda cute. I can’t remember my kids names half the time, I can’t be expected to remember THIS! Besides, I’d be too afraid of scaring the crap out of my kids when the elf doesn’t move for a few days, they may think he’s dead. LOL

  32. I’m jewish, so we don’t have an elf, but I will say the elf kind of creeps me out. He looks like one of those dolls in a slasher film and I feel like he is going to come alive and kill me.

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