Does The Elf on the Shelf Send the Wrong Message to Kids?

by Christina Vercelletto

Does The Elf on the Shelf Send the Wrong Message to Kids?


Sure, Santa's been watching and making those two lists forever. But now that his uber-popular minion, The Elf on the Shelf, has taken over as middle management in every other home…I had to wonder whether kids are any "nicer" this year?

Parenting expert Amy McCready, contributor to TODAY Moms, wondered too….and decided they aren't. In a recent post, she started this convo by pointing out what should be obvious: are any of us really giving our kids fewer gifts because of minor December infractions? How bad would they have to be, seriously, to find coal in their stocking? The kids sense–or have learned through experience–there is no real need to fall in line when the tree goes up. And besides, she continues, child psychiatrists will tell you tangible rewards, be they bountiful Christmas booty or M&Ms at the checkout counter after a cooperative grocery run, don't change behavior long-term. So even if there was an Elf Effect, it would disappear when he made his retreat back to the attic…er, North Pole. 

Plus: Our Elf-of-the-Shelf Hate Mail

But those grinning little guys are everywhere, and their purpose is clear: to report back to Santa on a daily basis, no less, on what's going down. I'm not sure that the vague threat "Santa is watching!" ever compelled my kids to behave better. If it did, it was such an undramatic change I don't remember. But I was hopeful, surely, with an actual  Elf In Residence, making nightly reports in between visits to the cookie jar, mailbox, and underwear drawer, might be stronger motivation.

So I'm with McCready. Though my daughter adores her Elf,  I can't say I have noticed that she picks up her clothes or puts her cup in the dishwasher with any greater frequency. So far (and this the second year running), Jolly has been a fun routine, a sweet memory, but a motivator for good behavior? Not so much. 

But maybe it's just me. What do you think, you many Elf lovers out there? Has your child gone from the naughty to the nice list trying to appease The Elf? Do you think threatening a smaller haul under the tree is the right message to send kids? Leave a comment