Serious Concerns with “the Elf on the Shelf”

(photo from


Although I love all things Christmas, I was quite dismayed to discover “the Elf on the Shelf.” It is terribly cute, and if all it did was play hide-and-seek with children each morning, that would be fabulous. But unfortunately, it is not being marketed this way.


My concern is that the elf is being sold as a spy to judge child behaviour.  This is taken from the official website: “Have you ever wondered how Santa knows who is naughty and who is nice? The Elf on the Shelf® – A Christmas Tradition is the very special tool that helps Santa know who to put on the Naughty and Nice list.” NOOOOO!!!!


As parenting educators and researchers, we have worked so hard to get “good girl” and “bad girl” out of parenting language, and this just puts it right back in. Argh!


If a child is deceived into believing there is a magical elf who will spy on them, judge their behaviour, and then tattle-tale to Santa, some backward brain-wiring might happen. Yes, there are some children who won’t be phased by this deception, and won’t freak-out on their parents for lying to them, but unfortunately, most kids will be terribly hurt by this experience.


Children rely on their parents to be truthful. They also rely on their house as a safe place where they know that if they make mistakes, they will be okay afterward. This constant feeling of being “watched” and “judged” may be very troublesome for kids. Imagine how you, as an adult would feel in the same situation.


For those who have already bought one of these elves, please just use it as a fun toy to hide each night, enjoying the pure fun of the season.


The Elf on the Shelf follow-up: (Tuesday, Dec  11)


Sincere thanks to all who have shared and commented on this article. I have been enjoying the opportunities to speak about this through the media.


I just want to make sure people realize I’m not a Christmas party-pooper or against this product if it is used all in good fun. Some children are having nightmares, experiencing anxiety, and there is a risk of hurting the parent-child relationship if the elf is being used as a threat or punishment for “bad” behaviour.


So I suppose “brain-wiring” wasn’t term I should have used; but rather just be aware that if your child seems to be more defiant or scared, consider just using the elf for a hiding game.


Happy Holidays to everyone. Wishing you the best.

Article was created by

Andrea Nair considers all aspects of the person when she welcomes someone for counseling and when she undertakes any research, writing or speaking engagements. She works as a psychotherapist, holding credentials as a Canadian Certified Counsellor (CCC) through the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA). Andrea has quite naturally branched out from her counseling role into speaking, facilitating and publishing her work in the field of parenting, and she has even written a fictional novel which draws on a composite of clinical situations she has gathered during her practice. As a parenting coach, Andrea’s dream is to continue to expand her messages – empowering parents everywhere to tap into their own natural talents and strengths. She explains to parents how they can understand and overcome negative influences from their own pasts which may be impeding them, and how to use proven parenting techniques to raise self-confident and resilient children who are fully able to excel in this ever-changing world.

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  1. Louise
    Dec 06, 2012

    I agree! I really like the idea of it being an enhancement to the fun of Christmas. The idea of an elf playing hide and seek each morning is adorable. Even the deception of Santa causes some families distress – I just can’t imagine what this would do! Thanks for the perspective. Sometimes as parents we can get caught up in ‘what everyone else is doing’ without really thinking through to the consequences.

  2. Ryan Hamilton
    Dec 06, 2012

    I’m no educator, but I am a dad of four EOTS fans. So there are no good or bad kids? That’s news to me. The fact is that someone is always watching in life, whether a friend, parent, teacher, higher power, or your own conscience. To pretend otherwise is delusional. So to have one month out of the year where kids have a physical representation of that watchfulness is ok by me. EOTS is about tradition, family, fun and, yes, good and bad.

  3. Cheryl
    Dec 08, 2012

    Well said. If this is how this product is marketed, the company’s concept is supported with each purchase. If someone purchases it and has a vision of something much more magical – that’s great … but at the core of the product creation is a concept that shouldn’t be supported financially.

  4. [...] then went to Andrea Nair’s original post: Serious Concerns with “Elf on the Shelf” and realized we felt much the same way!  I encourage you read it.  I really like the point she [...]

  5. [...] concerns about this “Elf on the Shelf Tradition”. Andrea Nair, another parent educator, expresses her concerns in her blog. She describes the elf: [Bold emphasis in original] “It is terribly cute, and if all it did [...]

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