Why I Don’t Let Our Elf on the Shelf Raise My Children

Elf on the shelf TP bathroom

Last year we received an Elf on the Shelf from the North Pole. Our elf, Sparkle, is supposed to watch my three kids all day and report to Santa if they are being naughty or nice. She likes to hide and do silly things. I could totally use this Elf to temporarily help me with discipline but I decided not to. Our elf is supposed to be fun and not parent my children.

I am not going to lie to you and the idea did cross my mind. After our oldest had a rough day of not wanting to do as he was asked and having to get sent to time out a couple of times, I REALLY wanted Sparkle to leave him a letter from Santa. I didn’t do it. I don’t want my son to behave because of this fictitious character.

Christmas season is a reminder to my family and we try to give to others and celebrate love as a family. Our elf is fun. I always discuss how silly I feel letting my children believe the stories of the Elf. BUT I truly believe that as they gets older and know that Sparkle isn’t real… they will still want to play the game and Sparkle might just start getting REALLY good at hiding! ;)

If I can’t get my children to behave easily without an elf or santa lingering over her head, than I don’t feel like I am doing my job as a parent. Maybe you are a GREAT parent and still let Santa linger over your child’s head. Why do you do that? Aren’t you making your job tougher in the long run?



  1. says

    we do elves- christopher and christina popinkins. they hide, they leave surprises, they have gotten into a few chocolate candies. but that’s it. they are part of the FUN of christmas. oh and they do usually bring our advent calendar and gingerbread house kit– and they are bringing a lego set christmas decoration this year (snow storm tomorrow)

    we just have FUN with it. not behavior. not watching, or spying. just fun. like any other decoration.

  2. says

    I think the Elf is fun just from a shenanigans and mischief perspective, but I wouldn’t use it as a measuring stick for good behavior either.

  3. says

    We don’t have an Elf, although I’ve considered getting one. I also agree that it should be fun for the kids. I don’t think it’s designed for discipline. This year we are doing an advent calendar where the girls get a special treat everyday. I love it because they get to see the countdown to Christmas!

  4. casey says

    I have never heard of anyone using it as a disciplinary tool; that’s kind of odd, in my opinion. I think that if I had kids, I would use it in a fun way like you are doing.

  5. says

    My son has an Elf, but we only use it to promote good behavior and as a fun Christmas tradition. My 3 year old loves finding him every morning. Sometimes, but not often, when we are home and I praise him for acting well behaved, I may add “I’m sure Santa will love hearing how good you were today from Snowflake!” For us, promoting the good behavior is much more effective than focusing on the negative.

  6. says

    We don’t have an ELF at our house, but if we did, I think I would do it a lot like you. All the emphasis on the fun, and none of the reporting to Santa focus.

  7. says

    We have an elf named Ellie. Our daughter is three and she LOVES coming downstairs every morning to see where Ellie is hiding and what she’s been up to during the night. It’s so cute!

    • Mandi says

      It should be, but you can’t believe that there aren’t parents who use is as a threatening way to get their children to behave. It’s along the same lines as saying “if you don’t X you don’t get X”. That’s a threat. If you do it, do it for fun. Don’t let it be a form of discipline or act as another parent. What child wants to fear a toy elf because their mommy says if they don’t behave they don’t get presents? Just irritating.

  8. says

    I have never had the elf before and I guess I don’t really get it since my daughter is older. I agree with you, I think children should learn to be good for themselves and not because they think Santa won’t bring them a gift.

  9. says

    I completely agree with you. We don’t use ours as a behavior tool. Actually, ours doesn’t even create mischief. I don’t have time for that! Ours usually is just in a different hiding place each morning.

  10. says

    We don’t have an Elf either (at least not a tangible one, though there have been times in our house where mischief was performed, and it was blamed on ‘the Elves’ ;) There is a friend of mine whose children received one, and my friend is so creeped out by it that she routinely places it in places such as the blender … then takes photos.

  11. says

    We don’t have an elf, mainly because of the points you mentioned. I just think it’s misused sometimes. We don’t really do Santa either, but my son is picking up a lot of thoughts from others so I’m just letting him decide what he thinks. I’ll NEVER use it to scare him into being “good.”

  12. says

    I have to admit that I don’t know anything about this Elf on a Shelf thing I have been seeing all over. I don’t celebrate Christmas so I haven’t put effort into finding out what it is. I do like our point that if you cannot convince your children to behave properly without the help of a pretend character it is a sad thing.

  13. says

    I’ve never known anyone to substitute the elf for parenting, actually. Maybe my friends that do just don’t say anything :P I do see a lot of folks use it to send notes of good behavior back to Santa, which we probably will do, also. I think positive reinforcement is a good thing :)

  14. says

    I wrote about this, too. I really hate the idea of my kids only behaving because they think the elf is watching them and because it will make a difference in their presents. They need to behave because… they need to behave. And the presents they get are out of love, not conditional on their behavior anyway.

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