Each year I whip it out with bright-eyed ambition (I’m talking about the elf here). I’m armed with a bunch of screenshots from over-eager Pinterest mums. Women who I aspire to be like … or rather, I just want to avoid wandering around the house aimlessly holding Elfred-Jude-Twizzle in one hand, eyes half closed with exhaustion.
I jam him in the fridge and head off to bed hoping no child is traumatized by the possibility of a frozen elf come morning.
“The elf is not your source of power”
Dr Vanessa Lapointe, author of Discipline Without Damage, parenting expert, and registered psychologist says we’re actually doing our kids damage with the way we use the elf to do our dirty work.
“When I first heard about this little creature, I will admit I immediately declared myself a non-elfer,” Lapointe wrote in a blog post.
“The Elf on the Shelf official website describes the elves as ‘…magical helpers that help Santa Claus manage his naughty and nice lists by reporting back to him at the North Pole nightly’.”
Sounds pretty accurate to me … and like LOTS of fun for a parent – Am I right?
Lapointe, however, likens it to the old lump of coal threat, “merely dressed up in a cuter package”.
Who else is picturing themselves yelling at a semi-naked child, “GET IN THE BATH, THE ELF IS WATCHING!”
I know, I can sort of see her her point, but if made-up stories intended to make children do what you’re asking them to do isn’t a part of childhood, then what is? Are we forgetting about Santa himself, making his naughty and nice list AND CHECKING IT TWICE?! And who else has used the old “quick! Daddy’s coming!” line to hurry the kids up?
I have a friend who has just bought a fake security camera, delivered by the elf, so Santa can tune in at any moment. GENIUS, I tell you, the woman is a GENIUS!
At a time when the kids are exhausted and their manners are starting to wane, then we’re hit with school holidays, can’t we just keep the bastardly elf? Isn’t this what we wade through the first 11 months of the year for? Good behavior brought on by the empty threat that the big man won’t deliver … sign me up!
“A misplaced power card for securing good behavior”
Lapointe says many parents are using the elf as “a misplaced power card for securing good behavior”.
“The elf is not your source of power as a parent,” writes Lapointe in her blog post. “Your heart and your relationship with your child is where that comes from. Let’s keep it real.”
She suggests instead, telling your kids that your elf was “sent by Santa to help count down to the big day.”
Where’s the fun in that though?
I guess she has a point, but seriously … must we give up our secret spy? Really?
We’re well into that time of the year where we pretend a big fat man in a red suit is going to drop into our lounge room through a non-existent chimney. How can the cute little elf that helps the kids behave for the majority of the school holidays be any worse than that?
Lapointe also argues that the elf on the shelf leads to competition among kids.
“In some classrooms the elf and its antics has become something of a competition. Whose Elf is cooler? Whose Elf did the craziest thing? Who has Instagram pics to prove it?” she said.
The elf isn’t alone in this. With anything comes competition, but does that really mean we should stop using it? If we did, we wouldn’t have a lot of things that end up being thrown around the schoolyard in brag-worthy fashion.
Instead, Lapointe suggests this response to discourage bragging children:
“A simple, swagger-infused response from you such as ‘Everybody’s Elf is different – our Elf will just be doing what our Elf does. That is just what elves do.’ The end. No further explanations. No value attached either way. Let the elves be! And in the meantime, your child gets a handy lesson in not buying into the shallowness of a tradition gone wrong.”
Could you imagine if we took everything away that commandeered our kids into the bath under false pretenses and actually parented them ourselves? We would still have Santa which is pretty much the same thing anyway.
So back away from our Elfred-Jude-Twizzles and let us mums have a little break and enjoy an eggnog or four while the kids actually listen once or twice.