Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Elf on the Shelf... Good or Evil?

A month ago I almost ordered an Elf on the Shelf.

Last year I saw all  these fun pinterest ideas and a few friends doing it. Looked so fun. Was hard to find an elf in time though.  I put the idea away for this year and I thought this year I would be all prepared with my list of elfy mischief {thanks to pinterest} and order in my elf with my Christmas gift book order in September.

For some reason I baulked at the cost
(of adding to my already growing $$ of books) and subsequently didn't buy the elf

Plenty of time to get one I thought, perhaps they'll be in the stores this year in Australia.

I must have mentioned maybe wanting one somewhere on facebook when a friend emailed saying she gave hers away after having an uneasy feeling while reading the book that comes along with the elf and that she just felt it wasn't the right family tradition for them while maintaining she's sure its a fine tradition for others and if it builds up your family then why not?

Hmm she really got me thinking. I was kinda on the fence already.

When aren't I on the fence!?!? {it's a real problem}

We don't even believe in Santa in this house so is there even a point to Elf on the Shelf?

Do I just want to do it because I've seen it on the internet and jealous of other peoples fun?

The bribery part for good behaviour wouldn't work so well either.
I don't believe in bribing kids in December - 'You better be good or you'll get no gifts!!' I know very well that I would hand over any gifts on Christmas Day regardless of my kids behaviour. That would be teaching them nothing if I railed on and on about 'you better be good', 'OH you didn't just do.......' now no gifts for you. No that would be a big backfire because I'm such a softie I would be teaching them - be bad and you'll get gifts anyway. Now my kids aren't perfect and muck up all the time, but that's just one thing I don't want to teach - that behaviour is tied to Christmas gifts they would very much well receive regardless.

But wouldn't the ELF just be another fun  tradition to add into this house of Christmas loving peeps?

Subsequently I've seen a few other discussions around ranging from:

I'm too lazy to think up fantastic mischief for the elf to get up to for 24 nights.

It turns every evening in December into Christmas Eve ~ where in you have to wait for the kids to be asleep so you can 'set up everything' for the next morning

The elf is so creepy why would you want that around?

Why create more work for ourselves that isn't focusing on the real meaning of Christmas?

I so much wanted to be a part of the fun that seems to exude from Elf on the Shelf.

I even had roped my older  kid into helping me nightly.
I thought that getting her to help me do fun little elf things for her younger sisters would help her transition into the 'giving' instead of 'getting' part of Christmas. It's so hard as a teen when the magic loses its tarnish and you're also not in the world of getting excited for your own children, or have any money to buy things to make others happy.

I've marked the ideas on pinterest with such fun ideas to do around the house.

Wouldn't it be a joy to wake each morning to find out what the elf has been up to last night??

So then I decided to google 'Elf on the Shelf Negative'

Oh boy.

Maybe I shouldn't have done that. Nearly everything I read had me nodding in AHA moments.

Here are some of the articles that I found informative (even if they wrecked my dreams!)
Click them if you dare (though they are kinda funny)

Hannah Bird
What elf on shelf  teach kids?

The elf is allowed to be naughty but his purpose is to ensure the kids are not!
It teaches them that there is an authority outside of parents and the Lord over the home.
It teaches them that we behave for extrinsic reasons.
It teaches them that good behavior is a commodity to bargain with.
It teaches children that  unseen bad behavior has no negative impact.
It teaches them that there must be ever-escalating entertainment and novelty.
And scariest of all, it teaches children that parents are so unsure of themselves that they must employ a little leverage.
The Atlantic

Why inject a note of fear and suspicion into a season and a holiday that are meant to be about love, togetherness, and forgiveness? Coupled with the catch-22 that if you do your job right, your children will never thank you for it (because all these goodies come from the Elf!) - wouldn't you prefer a Christmas tradition the child knows is from you. Instead of spending this precious time creating all this work perhaps spend your time with your child. Stay up late and have a hot chocolate. Sit down together and do a craft.

White house Black Shutters
I'll fall asleep and forget to set up elf and mess up the 'magic'
I'm hiring an elf to mess up my house while trying to teach my kids to be good?!?!

The Path Less Taken
My question is this:  Do you really want your kids to behave a certain way because they’re afraid that a creepy little elf is going to be watching them and reporting to Santa?  What happens in January when the elf gets packed away? I know I don’t.
Behaving a certain way for an external reward (or fear of punishment) is temporary, at best.  It’s also not sincere, but just on the surface… no more than a means to an end.  Where is the meaning in that?  If you gave me $100 and told me to hold the door for a stranger, I would.  But how much more would it mean – for me and the stranger – if I did it for free, simply because it’s a nice thing to do?  Bribing and threatening our kids to “behave” is like assuming that they wouldn’t do so otherwise.  It’s belittling them, and taking away their own power to do what THEY feel is right… not for a reward, not because of a fear of punishment, but because they want to.  If they’re not given that chance, how can they show us who they really are?

When friends visit our kids tell everyone about how the elf is watching everything they do.
Visiting our house is like visiting East Germany, circa 1983!
Surely kids are gonna wake up when the see these elves everywhere in the shops that indeed their elf monitor is not unique to their family.

There was talk of towns were peoples elves out do eachother (giving daily gifts, making cookies and other crazy insanity with kids comparing - what does your elf bring/ do?) do we really need another crazy consumer, competition driven tradition - isn't santa enough!?

Parents so eager to get good behaviour they are letting the Elf in the house in October.
We need a year round elf!!

Lots of Amazon comments point out kids that are scared of it and people who returned their elf.

 Elfy is also a little expensive for something you could pull off with any Christmas decoration.

Is it just a fad and I'll be embarrassed in a few years time to say I even bothered with it?

These are all so valid points!

Also valid are the points of people saying:
Get a grip
Don't take it so seriously
It's just a fun Christmas tradition
Take a chill pill
No child is going to be emotionally or psychologically harmed !
If a parent does use it to bribe, harm or mentally damage a child then it is their parenting technique and not a little elf toy to be blamed.
Hundreds of people saying their kid loves their elf and their behaviour improved with its use

What to do? What to do?

I thought of a bunch of ways I could tailor it to our family.
Just a fun hide and seek thing.
Just a way for me and my older daughter to create some fun for our younger kids.
Just a way for me to have some fun creative Christmas outlet
Why the heck not?!
Because I want to!!

But once I had 30 plus reasons NOT to do elf on the shelf I feel guilty for still intending to do it.

These all just felt like justifications to me. Sigh.

Then I felt like rebelling and Just going for it. Rule breaker I am!

So I'm still not sure what I will do.

You may very well see 'creepy placed elf' ideas on this very blog.
I may just go to supermum efforts every day in December
IT may turn out to be another wonderful tradition for our family.

Or I may not bother to introduce what I'm starting to have a sinking feeling is not the right tradition for our family.


Why do I think too deeply about things??

Should I get an Elf on the Shelf??


AnnalisaG said...

My sister bought us an elf of the shelf last year because she was having such a blast with her kids doing it. I think it is totally fun and harmless. First of all, the actual elf is based on a vintage Christmas elf, so if you can skip buying the book and the cheap elf that comes with it, I would. I would love to replace mine and I always keep an eye out at antique shops. Also, if your kids don't believe in Santa, then they don't need to believe in the elf either. You can still have fun having him/her show up in crazy places, doing funny things just for fun. My sister's children are all too old to believe in Santa and they still had a ton of fun seeing what their mom would come up with. Usually I am the worried parent. I worry about my girls growing up and dating. I worry about bullying at school. I worry if I am doing enough to teach the gospel. However, I do not worry about the elf of the shelf. We think he's fun, and his naughty behavior makes the kids laugh and laugh. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Don't believe in Santa? I would love to know how you explain this to your children. We are the same but sometimes I feel a bit mean, as if I am somehow ruining the magic. They still get advent calendars and Christmas stockings etc but they know it is from us. We don't hate Santa and the kids are well aware of who he is, we just want to focus on the real meaning a bit more. As for elf on the shelf don't make it bribery, just have some fun seeing what mischief he gets up too each night, sounds like some fantastic quality time with your daughter! I don't have one I know I'd forget to do it each night :)

This Girl loves to Talk said...

not sure if you will see this anonymous but here is a little blog post on how it came about

Basically my oldest daughter by 2 and half/3 new santa wasn't real. Just as we were about to get into it. She just didn't believe so we didn't want to start lying to her and encouraging her. Then we had three more kids! Coincidently my third child starting believing in santa around 4 years old. So we do have a little santa talk but we don't say he delievers presents or anything or make a big deal of it. we love santa movies and books but choose not to really decorate with much santa stuff.

I too did used to feel a little guilty but not having santa made me want to have so many other traditions that I am soo happy with what we do compared to many others who just do santa and that's it.

Our Beautiful Family said...

Have you come to a conclusion? I agree with you! I am so torn, it looks like so much fun. I love christmas and we have so many christmas traditions in our family. I just love adding to the holiday joy. I don't really like the book and don't want this elf to be a taddle-tale and report to Santa. I just want him to be a fun christmas friend that brings fun crafts for my kids to do like make cookies, gingerbread houses, make snowflakes, make ornaments etc. I just don't know how to go about explaining that he's just christmas fun! Lol

Christie said...

I used to visit all the time and read your blog, unfortunately my life got crazy busy and I quit having time. I just got a few minutes tonight and it was like connecting with an old friend.

I just wanted to tell you my child is 9 and wanted an elf. We bought it and I explained it will be whatever she wants to believe it is. It's the magic of Christmas.

It tuns out she liked to write a note to our elf each night and the elf wrote a tiny little note (typed) back to her each night. I didn't always pull off anything special but I kept the little notes real. Once I even just laid it on a pillow with a note saying she was just tired. LOL

My daughter LOVED those little notes and taped each one into a book she made. On the first page she wrote a short story about her elf and she said "Holly changed her life this Christmas season. She loved getting up to find her tiny letters. It made her season extra special." My daughter is alone a lot as her siblings are 5 and 7 years ahead of her, Holly the elf was a friend for a short time.

I guess I am saying there shouldn't be guilt and frankly its a stuffed toy. It can be as much or as little as you wish.

I don't know if you went for it, but if you wanted to have one, let your inner child out and go for it. I am guessing you'll be glad you did. :)

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