Make merry memories with your Elf on the Shelf
According to this new tradition, when a family adopts and names their elf, the elf receives “Christmas magic” that allows him to fly to and from the North Pole. Each morning, kids search their home to find their elf. Sometimes they will find him eating breakfast or playing with their toys, but other days the elf may be causing mischief like dumping buckets of toys or throwing flour around the kitchen. At the end of the day, the elf returns to the North Pole to share the family’s daily activities with Santa Claus.
While the Elf on the Shelf can be all fun and games, some parents struggle with the daily visits from the elf. The idea is that children are to be on their best behavior under the watchful eye of the elf, but once Christmas has passed, and the elf is gone, the kids no longer behave well.
“The Elf on the Shelf can be a fun family activity and tradition during the holiday season,” says Dr. Gabrielle Roberts, clinical psychologist at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn, Ill. “The problems seems to arise when parents rely on the elf as a means of discipline, rather than a fun, silly tradition. The notion that the elf is monitoring the children’s behavior and therefore they should be on good behavior may be introduced by the Elf story; however, an overemphasis on this point – or reliance on this as a disciplinary measure – comes from parents.”
Dr. Roberts says that children already know that Santa makes a list and “knows whether they are naughty or nice,” and this hasn’t seemed to ruin children or undo good parenting after the holidays. However, when the elf is used as a disciplinary tool, this can become problematic.
She offers these tips for parents if their kids have an Elf on the Shelf:
- Don’t blame the elf. The elf should not be used as a disciplinary strategy. Instead parents should maintain their normal household rules and expectations so when the elf leaves in January, the kids behavior will not change drastically. If the elf is causing a problem in the home during or after the holidays, then perhaps it is not a good choice for the family.
- It’s all in good fun. It can be fun for parents to try and outdo each other in creating the most extravagant elf visit. But, if this competition begins to cause friction at home, they should rethink having the elf in the house.
- Know your kids. If parents are struggling with problematic behavior at home, then it is probably not a good idea to have the elf participate in activities that break household rules. However, if kids are well-behaved and understand that just because the elf breaks the rules that they do not get to do the same, then it’s probably not going to hurt anyone. If the elf’s behavior begins to become a problem then it’s probably best to keep the elf on better behavior.
- Keep the elf in its place, having holiday fun. Families should emphasize the playful aspect of the elf, such as where he is going to pop up next rather than using the elf as a disciplinary threat.
Whether it’s the holiday season or not, Dr. Roberts encourages all parents to be consistent with rules, expectations, rewards and consequences, and to set clear expectations and positively reinforce behavior.
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