Does the Elf on the Shelf visit your house?

Does the Elf on the Shelf visit your house?

Every December, some homes are visited by an Elf on the Shelf, one of Santa’s “scout elves” who helps manage the “nice list”. The elves appear each morning, usually having caused some mischief, and head back to the North Pole every night to fill Santa in on the family’s activities.

“The concept of the Elf on the Shelf is that children should be well behaved, since the elves report back to Santa Claus,” explains Dr. Gabrielle Roberts, a child psychologist at Advocate Children’s Hospital. “But it’s important to remember that if you have an Elf on the Shelf, it should be a fun activity, not a means of discipline.”

Dr. Roberts offers the following advice for parents in households with elves:

Avoid playing the blame game

Resist the urge to turn the elf into a disciplinarian. It is important to set clear rules and maintain consistent expectations for the household all year long. Over-relying on the threat of a spying elf can undermine good parenting and might result in problematic behavior once the elf has left the building.

Minimize the stress

Is the elf wreaking havoc on your mental health? Don’t overdo it. Social media is flooded with images of elves getting into elaborate messes. Remember, this is supposed to be fun, not a competition. If the elf has become another stressor in your life, maybe it’s time the little rascal heads out on an extended vacation.

Beware of mixed messages

Be mindful of the choices you make for your elf and what this may communicate to your child. If you are working through problematic behavior, consider the confusion it may cause to allow an elf to break the rules in your home. Take a step back – does it make sense for your family to have an elf? If you’d like them to stay, perhaps you can talk with your elf about their own behavior.

The Elf on the Shelf isn’t the only holiday tradition that shouldn’t be used as a threat.

“Constantly reminding your child that Santa is watching as a scare tactic to improve behavior isn’t the best approach, either,” Dr. Roberts says. “Instead, focus on enjoying the holiday season while remaining consistent with rules, expectations, rewards and consequences year-round.”

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One Comment

  1. My daughter is almost 7 months old, and my husband and I decided not to bring the Elf into our house. Her daycare center has an Elf. Though she’s too young to understand “Elf on the Shelf” I worry about whether the elf is used “Just for fun” or if teachers in classrooms with older kids are using the elf or a “Santa cam” as the morality police. If we run into that situation in the future, do you have suggestions for how to handle that?

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About the Author

Holly Brenza
Holly Brenza

Holly Brenza, health enews contributor, is a public affairs coordinator on the content team at Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago. In her free time, Holly enjoys reading, watching the White Sox and Blackhawks, playing with her dog, Bear and running her cats' Instagram account, @strangefurthings.