It’s that time of year again — The Elf on the Shelf is back. I write about this every year as it is becoming very clear this generation needs more boundaries and less “stuff.” The Elf continues to grow in popularity as discipline seems to be slipping down the drain. Thirty dollars buys you a month of good behavior from your children and possibly 11 months of sheer terror when you can’t use the Elf any longer. For those not familiar, the Elf is hidden each night by parents around the house in various creative positions during the month of December. The Elf reports back to Santa every night, so kids believe they need to be good during December to get gifts on Christmas morning. Parents are now scrambling and even stressing about how they will hide the Elf each day and what creative way he can be found by the children. Some parents provide candy and even small gifts each day leading up to Christmas when their kids discover the Elf each morning.
Most of the children in our house are now past the Santa years, but the Elf on the Shelf has been around for a long time — and I never understood the idea. I have heard all of the excuses people use as to why it is a great thing. I am told kids behave better under the “you better watch out” theory with the Elf acting like a spy for Santa each day. Others say it is just to promote the magic of Christmas which leads me to wonder how the true “magic” of Christmas ever evolved into any belief whatsoever in Santa or his elves. Any household that needs to rely on an Elf for 25 days to somehow squeeze good behavior out of their children is looking at a very difficult 340 days to follow. The only thing that can possibly help your child’s overall behavior is consistent and structured discipline combined with your time and love. I would highly suggest spending the $29.99 on parenting classes or books if that is your reason for the Elf on the Shelf.
The magic of Christmas has been lost for so long now I can see why people think the Elf somehow will add to it or help create it in the first place. I am told there are many articles to read on creative ways to hide the Elf or place the Elf. I’ve heard stories of people having multiple Elves or spending long hours figuring out ways to entertain their children with them. What if that time was spent directly with your child instead? What if you sat down together and constructed a Christmas puzzle and listened to your kids with all phones and electronic gadgets turned off? The magic of Christmas is simply giving and receiving and being surrounded by the people you love. It certainly has nothing to do with toys or candy and has very little to do with Santa Claus over the course of a child’s life.
I’m not against a huge focus on Santa Claus (well maybe I am just a bit). I am pro-family, and the holidays have become all about what gifts people get and how much Mom and Dad are willing to fork out. The Elf promotes this idea, and I think there is enough time spent on Santa already. There are plenty of songs and television shows about Santa. There are certainly enough men in white beards in every mall across this great nation. There are phone calls to the North Pole and even an internet tracking site to watch Santa on Christmas Eve. The truth is Santa isn’t real and neither is magic. Families are real. Love is real. Spending time with your kids is real. Doing everything you can to please your kids isn’t real and will only lead to disappointment down the road.
When I think of Christmas as a child, Santa doesn’t even pop into my head. My favorite memory is of my grandmother being the first one up and getting us all up to gather around the tree. She had a favorite ornament, which was a pink elephant. She died on Dec. 16, 1997, and one of my last memories is of her sitting on the couch by the Christmas tree holding her elephant ornament. Her ability to recognize most of us was gone, but she knew that ornament because she had lived the true meaning of Christmas her whole life. That is magic. That is the story I tell my kids every year rather than wasting time and energy on the fake man at the North Pole.
If you need help instilling the magic of Christmas in your children, sit around the fire with them and tell stories. Take them to feed the homeless, so they can appreciate all they have. Donate the $30 for the Elf to an organization buying winter jackets for children that need them. Create a calendar for the month of December and each day place a good deed inside for your children to perform. Use Christmas to promote family and community and watch the magic in your children’s eyes as they help others or spend time with you. The Elf on the Shelf promotes commercialism and kids who need more and more to keep their attention wrapped around the material aspects of Christmas. There is nothing magical about that in the long run.
Katie Coombs is the host of the radio show “Uncommon Sense with Katie Coombs.” You can reach her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/UncommonSenseKC/