Once a family adopts an Elf, reads the story of The Elf on the Shelf and names their pixie he will receive his Christmas magic. It is vital to note that the elf cannot be touched or he will lose this magic. Beginning around Thanksgiving the Elf watches everything that goes on in the home during the day and at night uses his magical powers to fly back to the North Pole to report back to Santa what he witnessed in the home. This will ensure that Santa will know who behaved and is to be put on the Nice List or who didn’t which will put the child on the Naughty List. Before the family awakes each morning, their elf will fly back to their home positioning himself in a different spot since these elves like to play games. On Christmas Eve, the scout elf will listen for Santa’s bell and then fly back to the North Pole until the next season.
From my perspective the Elf on the Shelf is a physical manifestation of the Santa threat. The Santa threat is the same threat that was used on me when I was a Christian though it bears a different name at Christmas time. You see, there really is no difference to a young child. Santa is the authority from Thanksgiving to Christmas and the rest of the year it is God. They both know what I am doing all the time (sleeping or awake) and both know my intentions (whether they are ‘good’ or ‘bad’) and both judge whether I will be rewarded (with toys or Heaven) or punished (with coal/no toys or Hell).
Once this Elf is placed on the shelf in the home the children now have a physical representation of the threat. And this physical representation is placed in their home! It is there to scare them into submission every day from Thanksgiving until Christmas time. It invades the child’s one safe place where nothing will harm them, the place where they are encouraged (rightly so) by their parents to feel protected from all the ‘bad’ and ‘evil’ things out in the world, the place where they are loved unconditionally for who they are and not by what they can or cannot do nor for what they do or do not do. How can this sanctuary remain so when there is something sitting there on the shelf or mantel staring at them and judging each behavior every minute of each day from November 25th until December 25th?
It also seems to me that the Elf provides the parents with a scapegoat for their own guilt. "You, children need to behave or Santa's scout elf will tell Santa and he won’t bring you gifts!" The parents have no say in the matter. Santa is the ‘bad guy’ here If little Suzie doesn’t receive the Barbie Dream House she wants then it isn’t Mom or Dad’s fault. Suzie must not have behaved enough otherwise she would have gotten that Dream House, right? It isn’t because Mom or Dad said ‘no' to Suzie's wishes nor is it because they couldn’t afford the gift. It's because Santa didn't bring it for Suzie. Blame it on Santa, Suzie because you must have been caught doing something 'naughty' by that damn Elf!
I am uncomfortable with The Elf on the Shelf Tradition, my husband is uncomfortable with it, as well as my sixteen-year-old son and eleven year old daughter. in fact. she sums it up in her own words, “It’s blackmail, Mommy! Why would anybody want to do this to their kid?” I could not agree with her more.
Just this morning a facebook friend shared with me something wonderful! I was introduced to an alternative to The Elf on the Shelf - they are the Kindness Elves. Doesn't the name sound inviting already? you can read more details about them here on this blog -The Imagination Tree, which was posted on my personal facebook page by that friend. The idea behind the Kindness Elves is that they arrive around the same time as The Elf on the Shelf but instead of being focused on being Santa's snitch they focus on spreading the magic, joy and love of the season taking note of all the kindness that your children and/or family are a part of up until Christmas time. You can move them somewhere different each morning (the same idea as with The Elf) but they will be holding a notwe with a suggestion or idea for sharing random acts of kindness with others or perhaps the elves will be holding a message of encouragement or support for your children. I find that this is a fabulous way of participating in the fun games that The Elf encourages without any of the fear he instills with the constant awareness that he will report back to Santa. These Kindness Elves have the ability to remind our children as well as ourselves that we belong to a community; a family and that when we show kindness we will also receive kindness.
I encourage all my readers that if you have children and celebrate the Christmas season to bring the Kindness Elves into your family celebration. Many blessings to you all. I love you!