By Sofie Thomson, 14th December 2020

The Elf on the Shelf

Is it the Season to Scare our Children?

Is it the Season to Scare our Children?

As a child I was strong-minded and free-spirited, not much has changed and my children have inherited the rebellion I so strongly possess. I try to fully encourage rather than suppress this side of my (challenging at best) little ones and I willingly try to encourage rather than discourage their opinionated little selves. I blame it on the saying I heard once that stuck in my mind:
“Strong-willed children become adults who change the world”

The words ring in my ears so I grit my teeth, pray for patience and understanding in the most trying of times and dream of the day my offspring conquer the earth. What mother wouldn’t?

My daughter is me. A proper little mini version of yours truly.


That would normally be seen as a good thing, right? But even those who love me would describe me as ‘difficult’ at the best of times and as my daughter has taken after me, it stands to reason that she could push even the sanest person to the brink of meltdown. However, in the very next second she has the ability to make people feel like the most loved and cared for person on the planet.

My daughter (much like me, of course) is amazing and caring. My heart is filled with love for this affectionate, empathetic child that comes out with more questions than Google can keep up with.

Her strong-willed personality can rear its head at the most painful of times for a parent. Our main issue is tidying up.

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She loves helping around the house by doing dishes, cooking, hoovering and folding washing (she finds these chores ‘fun’) but if you ask her to tidy away her own toys it is as if Armageddon has hit.

Last week I found myself resorting to the one thing I promised I would never do. I pulled out the ‘Santa’ card. After all, if she wanted new presents, where on earth did she expect them to fit?

Horror. I took a step back and gave myself an imaginary slap. Did I seriously just threaten my child with the absence of an imaginary man in red pyjamas?


Why would Santa be the only reason to tidy up misplaced toys and why would I think that it is in anyway okay to threaten my 6 year old with the absence of this jolly man?

Why is Christmas all about being “good” for a month in the hope of receiving presents? My disdain for this need to be good for a month is almost as high as it is for that ridiculous and annoying Elf on the Shelf.

Oh yes, sorry everyone. I am most definitely not a fan and I can almost hear the screams of many a Pinterest mummy as they try to hold back the shock.

Don’t get me wrong, I can see how it can be used in the cutest of ways with a funny little elf pulling laugh inducing tricks and being generally cheeky, but think about this: Would you let your children get away with some of the tricks this mischievous piece of plastic pulls, or does Santa only give the elf a free card to be a little brat for 25 days whilst our children are not allowed a ‘get out of jail free’ card to have one single bad day? Oh no, if your child covered the tree with toilet paper or made a mess with sprinkles on the kitchen table, they would get a letter from Santa threatening the “Naughty List” but Buddy the Elf? He is only being ‘mischievous’.

But it is not the hypocrisy that bothers me so much, it is the fact that the Elf seems to be being used in a pretty depressing way which frankly will only lead to children feeling anxiety and associating December with stress and fear.

This cheeky red-faced little imp is used to make children fearful of displaying human behaviour.


I saw a mum whose elf had written a message to her 4 year old child, in short it said that as the girl had been “naughty” chewing with her mouth open the elf was going to report back to Santa and that was strike 1.

Seriously Lady? What are you going to use to make your daughter chew with a closed mouth the other 11 months of the year? Will you threaten her with the tooth fairy next?

And just for the record, a child is never naughty. The behaviour they exhibit, yes, but not the child. Labeling the child with negative terms is unhealthy and who would want a child to have a negative label following them about for the rest of their life?

Frankly Mums, it is not in any way beneficial for your child’s self-esteem and self-image. That in my opinion, if anything, is very naughty!

Christmas should not be about threats; it should be about love and family and of course a glass of wine when it all gets too much, but a month of threats? Why would we want to raise our children to feel fear during such a magical time of year?

I am not even going to get started on the Santa cam (a surveillance camera that watches you 24/7 and lets Santa know exactly how you behave). To put that in adult terms, that would be like my mother-in-law having a camera, watching me and judging my every move, seeing me put my feet on the coffee table whilst pretending to not see my children colouring each other’s faces with felt tip pen. The thought alone gives me anxiety.

So why are we turning pre-Christmas in to a month of threats and warnings instead of a fun and lovely lead up to a family celebration? I am sure we would not be impressed having impending threats over our heads 24 hours a day, yet we seem to think this is suitable pressure to put on our children.

Why use something as cute as a mischievous elf in such a negative way when it could offer so many opportunities to bond and have fun with your kids.

My friend who has one calls it the “wellness elf.” Her cheeky chappy has fun with the family for a month.

The kids look forward to the freaky looking little thing getting into trouble. No fear just fun.

Every morning her children wake to find the Elf has gotten in to some kind of tricky situation they have to try and save it from each new predicament, it is almost like a game of Elf Survivor.

This is a game I think we might partake in next year. Our elf will certainly not bring threats of reports back to Santa, or threats of missing out on Christmas presents, it will bring lots of fun and laughter and another job for a mum who is likely to forget to alter the little thing most evenings and have several wake ups at 2am to try and rearrange another scene in a last minute flurry.

(Note from The Editor: Main image courtesy of  © Jeff Djevdet – )

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