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.