3 Honest to Mom Reasons Not to Do Elf on a Shelf

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When Elf on a Shelf first debuted several years ago – I think our oldest son was still a baby – I thought it was weird and creepy. Some doll comes to life and reports to Santa about goodness and badness?

That didn’t fly with me then. Five or six years later, it still doesn’t.

On one hand, I think it’s great to find a way to do something your kids want to do, in a way that falls in line with your worldview. That’s a good compromise. However, if it’s just not your thing, I want you to know it really is okay to let go of any latent mom guilt and just say no to this trend, despite its growing popularity and appearance throughout the holiday aisles of most stores.

I will admit, though, I kind of love seeing all the things my friends’ families’ elves are up to. But I’m still against it. And I’m not the only one.

Most of my mom friends who are anti-elf are pretty firm in their stance. What they struggle with is what to tell their kids. Because of course, their friend Caitlyn has an elf. Parker has two! Peyton’s family’s elf even has pets!

As a result, our kids naturally wonder why there are no elves at our house. Here’s the reasoning we give our children, along with my honest-to-mom feelings on why I don’t participate in Elf on a Shelf.

Mom is Lazy

Seriously. And it’s not just that I’m lazy. It’s Christmas time. I have so many balls up in the air, and adding an elf is just too much. I’m going to forget to move him or her. And I know I’m not the only one because I’m now seeing Buzzfeed-type lists of things to tell your kids when you forgot the move the elf. Because what our kids need is more lies about this fictional creature.

What to tell the kids: I know Jaxson’s family has an elf. You see, his mom and dad are just so busy, they need that elf to keep an eye out for the kids. Your dad and I? We are on top of it. We know exactly what you are up to, and don’t need an elf’s help. And that’s the truth.

Mom is Honest

I suck at lying. I really do. I get tripped up and can’t remember half of what the “story” was supposed to be – especially a fiction like this one where you need to keep it up for however long your elf is out. I’m bound to mess up by telling the truth … and there goes the magic.

And I hear all y’all back there asking, “Well what about Santa?” Santa is different. He’s based on a real person that did real things. We see people dressed up like Santa everywhere. I don’t get into elaborate Santa schemes to convince my kids Santa is real either. If they want to believe, I see no harm in letting them hold onto the magic. My daughter is very much into Santa. My oldest son is a born skeptic. He wants so badly to believe, but I can tell his brain just isn’t made for magical thinking. Unless it involves Spiderman.

blog meme elf

What to tell the kids: All families have different traditions. Some families do Elf on a Shelf. Others put up a tree on Thanksgiving, while some wait for December. Our family has many wonderful traditions. We do 25 days of Christmas. We open nearly all our gifts on Christmas Eve. Grandma serves Roast Beast (Prime Rib). These are great things we love doing that are part of what makes our family unique and special.

Mom Just Doesn’t Like It

The elf gets sent here by Santa to spy on kids’ behavior and report back nightly to the chief elf. If you are bad or naughty or have bad behavior, the elf won’t move to a new spot, and his magic is ruined.

So basically, the elf is Big Brother and a behavior modification tool all in one. Not to mention a toy that supposedly comes to life at night. For us, it is just too much creepiness to handle. I don’t like the idea of things related to Big Brother. It’s bad enough the internet already tracks everything and knows all my deepest desires — from Outlander paraphernalia to different Instant Pot models, to the latest in Crazy 8 fashion for my kids. I don’t think the kids need to learn about that kind of paranoia yet.

I also have tried, from a very young age, to not label my kids as bad or good. They are human. They do things that aren’t ideal. They don’t listen. They sometimes deliberately disobey. I repeat, they are human. They are going to mess up. They are going to have a rough day. I don’t think having an elf hanging over their heads is the best way to get the best out of them. So, yeah, I just don’t like it.

What to tell the kids: Mom just doesn’t like it. I don’t like the elf. I don’t like him here or there. I don’t like the elf anywhere. I think you kids are great. You have great days and tough days. We are still going to celebrate Christmas the same way no matter what. Christmas is magical and it is a treat I want you to look forward to, without having to worry about how you are behaving. I want you to try your best every day, whether it’s Christmas season or not. So I don’t want the elf here, trying to give you the idea that you don’t deserve Christmas. Everybody that wants Christmas deserves to have it.

At the end of the day, whether you are an elf-loving family, reluctant elf hosts, or strongly anti-elf like me, do whatever brings joy to your home. For us, the elf does not make us happy, so we joyfully skip it. Where does your family stand on the elf?

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Katrina is a mom of three great kids and has been married to her first love for nearly 10 years. She’s grateful to have a job that allows her the flexibility to both work from home some days and in the office others. On the surface, Katrina is pretty crunchy – she loves breastfeeding, babywearing, co-sleeping, natural birth, and homeschooling — but still loves her stroller, having her kids in their own beds at some point, her epidural was fantastic, and she’ll be sending the kids through public school. Most of all she loves the fact that we have all these choices, which makes life interesting! One of her favorite experiences was moving to Japan in 2002 to live as an adult dependent with their USMC family. It was an amazing experience, and if it weren’t for that, she probably wouldn’t ever have met my husband.

14 COMMENTS

  1. My children, ages 7 and 4 have two elves. They love them. The way I chose to use “Jack Frost and Snowflake” was not to curve behavior because I have “good” children however, more of a attention getter. Children of today are way too distracted with tv, Internet, electronics, etc that their poor little brains are on overload. So for my children it’s a daily savenger hunt to see what the elves are up too. Yes they still leave at night and return in the morning and yes they live in the North Pole with Santa however, they go “home” to sleep and find a new place to hide, creating a whole new day of hide and seek.
    Santa, well now, like many, my children believe in Santa however, I think there is no difference in the concept of Santa and the elves. Santa is also behavior modification because he has a “nice and naughty” list and children respond to hearing “he’s checking his list and checking it twice, he’s gonna find out who’s naughty or nice.” In the end, No one should be made to feel bad if they do or don’t “elf on the shelf” or ” Santa” because the truth is Christmas isnt about anyone of us or our children. It’s about Jesus and I haven’t read yet how parents are making their children understand that.

    My kiddos asked, on their own, if we could buy a cake for Jesus since his bday is coming and also if they recieved gifts for it to only be three because Jesus only got three from the 3 wiseman. I was so proud because it wasn’t force upon them, they are understanding the birth of Christ.

    Bottom line, a few elves and Santa to keep a child young at heart and the season happy isn’t a bad thing. The world has enough of that with mass killings of children, people. Child abductions everyday, and our media floods us with that.

    I’m pro anything that makes children and parents lives a little happier and brighter!

    Blessing beyond Measure,
    Meya

  2. I completely agree! I can’t stand the elf. And I hate the concept behind the elf. Spying on your kids to report back to Santa in order to manipulate them into being “good”??? I have an idea – try being an actual parent, be involved in your kids day to day lives, teach them right from wrong and ditch all the deception.

  3. I’m not sure why I even clicked on this article, because I have two elves myself. I agree with the first comment made. This article is hypocritical at best. You espouse Santa, who has a list of naughty and nice, yet the elves are used as “behavior modification and the propagation of lies” I mean seriously, what? You are tripping all over yourself in your vilification of just a little more Christmas magic. If you don’t like them that’s fine but your erroneous justifications are just annoying at best. Lighten up, have fun, and please don’t endorse condescension of other parents techniques (i.e. “You’re on top of it” while other parents aren’t, you don’t lie (except about Santa and the tooth fairy and goodness know what else)) to your children as a way of explaining why you don’t want to participate.

  4. Same concept as Santa. Don’t want an elf? Don’t get one. Nobody cares. I knew I should not have wasted time on clicking this link…

  5. I’ve always been anti-elf, and I struggled with coming up with how to tell our kids we won’t have an elf. Thanks for your kid-friendly reasons! This is very helpful. Some people love the elf tradition so much, so I understand your need to justify not participating. Sorry people are getting so defensive over your sharing your opinions.

  6. I too have been scouring the internet for a rationale to give my 7 year old of why she doesn’t have an EOTS. I had tried “You just don’t need someone to watch if you’re being bad”…but it hasn’t been sufficient, as she continues to ask. I guess she is one of two kids in her class who don’t have one. I really appreciate your three explanations and will try to incorporate some of your advice such as “we have our own traditions” and “I have enough time to keep an eye on you”. Thank you for the article!

  7. I feel like the Elf is being imposed to all of the children these days. The teachers do it at school, even the sitter in her house has one! It’s just terrible and it is a ‘tradition’ that should be optional. I personally find it terribly creepy and a constant lie (24/7) to the children. I know, Santa is a lie too but at least is not constant (even inside your home having someone watching you around the corners). Just creepy!
    My daughter (7) wants an elf because ‘everybody’ has one. We have one that my sister in law gave us (blah!) and use it as another Christmas doll. But my child wants it to move around and do crazy stuff like the others. Not, that’s not happening. Last year same child told me how the elf was so doll-like looking and how it could not be real. To me laying to her is shaming her common sense and her intelligence.
    This newer ‘tradition’ is one of the worst ever. It’s just making rich the authors of the book!

  8. No everyone who has the elf uses it to modify behavior. For some households like mine, it is just a fun game of hide and seek or another way to celibrate the holiday. The elf in my house doesn’t spy on my child but wants to experience the holiday season with the humans that he helps Santa gives presents to and he reports to santa what we all would like for christmas. He is more like friend to my child not a police officer. But like with everything you can opt in or out. No one said that traditions all have to be the same for every household.

  9. My sister is anti-elf—so I looked up reasons why people are so against it. I see your point, but I mean, like the first comment says, it is kind of hypercritical —- Santa is doing the same exact thing in your child’s mind as the elves are doing, regardless if he’s real and elves are not. It’s only one month broooo—- RELAX.

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