A Child Grows contributor and Parenting Coach Brandi Davis from Child and Family Coaching unloads about a certain Elf on a certain shelf. What do you think? Adorable or creepy?
I want to start by saying that if you love your Buddy, Billy, Betty or Bert, keep your Elf on that shelf or mantle or tree or passed out after eating all of the cookies. I am not here to tell you what to do, just to vent my (very strong) feelings on this particular holiday phenomenon. This whole concept isn’t new of course. Santa has been keeping children “good” from his throne on the North Pole for as long as we can remember—but somehow that wasn’t enough. December and the frenetic excitement that comes with it became too much. We needed a more concrete entity to keep the ship upright throughout the holiday season. Can’t just work through the sugar highs, tantrums and “I want it!” moments. Nope, we have to put an Elf on a stakeout mission to keep those kids in line.
Maybe you’re asking yourself, “why does she care? What does she hate about this adorable, much loved toy?” Well, this Parenting Coach and teacher of 20 years has a few things to get off of her chest about this nosey little punk, so here are my top five reasons:
It’s creepy. The old, “Santa is watching so you better be good” line was creepy enough before the Elf added real life surveillance in the home. How many of us have put a piece of tape over our laptop cameras? Worried that “THE MAN” was watching as we walked down the street? We worry that our emails are being read, calls being tracked; we get bugged out when our last google search pops up on Facebook but feel a-ok about telling our kids that a small elf is watching their every move. I have to be honest, if that elf lived in my house, Santa would fly right over as he dropped coal down the chimney. And that leads me to my next gripe, GOODNESS.
What does “good” mean anyway? We tell kids to be good so the Burt The Elf will go back to Santa and report the stellar news, but what does “being good” mean? How much of the day has to be good? If your kid slips up once during the day and he pushes or she yells, is the day shot? That is A LOT of stress for a child. Being good causes many adults anxiety, so think about what it can do to our children. If we can’t handle perfection, why do we expect kids to? And what makes Santa and that Elf so GOOD? Why do they get to judge? Who put them in charge of goodness? Oh, right, you did. then again, who wants to be “good” all of the time anyway. It’s healthy to push the boundaries, have an adventure, see what you can do, make mistakes, learn about life. 100% goodness is overrated not to mention impossible.
It’s yet another competition. Like parents need something else to compete over or feel inadequate about. No longer can an elf just sit on the mantle, oh NOOOOO. It must be destroying the bathroom. Repelling down the tree. Frozen in ice by Elsa while “Let It Go” plays on a loop in the background. Who has time for that? Well some people do and that is great, but many people just cant swing it. How do you explain to your kid that you don’t have time for that nonsense when many of their friends parents seem to be able to hatch elaborate Elf antics? You thought he could just sit on the counter when you first bought it. Nope, not anymore. You’ll need to have that Elf folder on Pinterest going a year in advance. Can anyone see the hypocrisy in it all? Ben The Elf can be a big destructo-pants, squeezing chocolate sauce on the floor, ripping up TP in the bathroom, writing on the mirror with lipstick and your kid has one tantrum and that as*shole Elf is reporting him to to the Big Guy. Talk about confusing!
It’s lazy. Yup, I said it (I can see the comments section filling up now). It IS lazy, not to mention frightening. So your kid goes to grab a toy from their brother and the threat is brought out, “Be nice! The Elf will see that. He will tell Santa!” Your child is afraid of a Christmas with no toys or less toys, a disappointed Santa, not to mention that he is reminded that there is a toy watching him at all times. This will not help teach him that grabbing is not ok. He will not learn what to do instead of grabbing. He will still grab the next time that he forgets about that peeping elf or when the shelf is bare and the elf is honeymooning in a ski lodge with the Barbie doll he has eloped with.
What happens when January comes? So now it’s January and the Elf is away at said ski lodge, Santa is on the beach in Key West and you have lost the leverage you’ve counted on for an entire month. Sure, there were other methods thrown in during December, but your go-to “was that Elf and the look of disappointment on Santa’s face, don’t forget lack of gifts. Yes, we want to mentor our kids to be nice, thoughtful, and community-oriented. We want them to be “good” (whatever that means). But, in the end, relying on outside and random forms of discipline or judgement will not instill the impulse control, thoughtfulness, and self monitoring that is really what makes up not just a “good kid,” but a “good adult” as well.
I know many of you will be infuriated by my position on this. And, that’s ok. But, instead of getting mad, ask yourself why you ARE so mad. Perhaps there is a bit of logic in what I am saying. There are, in fact, other fun ways to use the elf aside from surveillance. I know families who hide the elf, make the elf do silly things, and the kids have to find him or her. They don’t use it for surveillance or discipline; it’s just a game. At the end of the day, everyone is free to do as they wish and there are a million Pinterest sites about the joys of the Elf and lots of articles and blog posts touting its brilliance. I am not that girl. I love the holidays, but I can’t wait for Elf season to be over. Interested in learning ways to to discipline without an Elf? Check out my previous post, 5 Ways You CAN Get Your Kids to Listen. Happy Holidays Everyone!
Brandi Davis, ACC, is a certified Parenting Coach, Parent Educator, and Author of O.K. I’m A Parent Now What? The goal of Brandi’s practice is to bring respect, calm communication, teamwork, and FUN into the home or classroom. Brandi was named Best Modern-Day Parenting Guru in Philadelphia Magazine’s Best of 2016 Issue. To discover all that Child and Family Coaching can bring to your family stop by www.childandfamilycoaching.com.