Why it's okay to ditch The Elf on the Shelf
This photo provided by CCB&A, LLC, shows the Elf sitting on the Shelf. (AP/CCA&B, LLC)
Published Thursday, December 3, 2015 5:55AM EST
He may be only about 10 centimetres high, but The Elf on the Shelf sure carries a lot of controversy with him.
Since he was introduced to the world 10 years ago, more than 8 million elves have flown off store shelves, along with the accompanying book explaining that it's the elf's job to help Santa find out who's been naughty and nice, and report back to him at the North Pole.
Because the elf is meant to leave and return each night, every morning, kids wake to find the elf in a new spot, keeping "the magic alive."
The toy has been a massive hit, spawning a TV movie, a varied line of elf clothes, new characters, and of course, a few knockoff competitors.
But as the Elf's popularity has grown, so has the backlash. It seems just about everyone has a gripe with the elf, from parenting experts to media watchers to regular folks who are sick of Elf pictures cluttering up their Facebook feeds.
Laura Pinto, an assistant Professor at University of Ontario Institute of Technology, has argued that the Elf on the Shelf is more than just annoying; he is teaching kids the dangerous message that it's normal or okay to be spied on. She worries that the Elf conditions kids to accept "increasingly intrusive (albeit whimsically packaged) modes of surveillance."
For most adults sick of the Elf, it's not as complicated as that. But if this once-magical toy has become little more than an annoyance, here are a couple of ideas for placing the elf back onto the shelf for good.
Retire the guy
Kristen Hewitt introduced the Elf on the Shelf to her older daughter when she was two-and-a-half-years-old but soon wished she hadn't.
As a sideline reporter with the Miami Heat, a business owner and the manager of a popular lifestyle blog, Hewitt found she just didn't have the energy needed to keep the Elf on a Shelf magic going for a month.
"The first year, it was fun; the next year it became work," the South Florida mom told CTVNews.ca.
The Christmas season is stressful enough as it is, and Hewitt decided that dreaming up clever places to place a stuffed plastic elf was simply not that high on her daily holiday to-do list.
"I realized my girls are probably not even going to remember this. And it just became a job," she said.
What's more, Hewitt worried the Elf on the Shelf "just perpetuates the lie about Santa Claus." Her older daughter is pretty smart, and has already figured out that the Santas at the mall are not the REAL Santa, for example. (The mall Santa "doesn't smell right," the now-six-year-old will gladly explain.)
"She's very perceptive… so I knew she would soon figure out that the Elf on the Shelf wasn't magical either," Hewitt says.
Last year, Hewitt decided she was done. In a blog post entitled "5 Ways to Off the Elf on the Shelf," she mulled a few ways to explain to her kids why "that creepy little elf" was not coming back
In the end, she decided to break it to them gently with a letter written by their elf, Chuckie. Chuckie explained that because of the girls' exemplary good behaviour, he realized they didn't "need his elf magic" anymore, and so he was off to go help a new family. He encouraged the girls to keep up the good deeds before bidding adieu.
Hewitt's older girl was "a little bummed" at first that Chuckie was gone, but Hewitt says she quickly forgot about him. As for her younger daughter, she doesn't even remember the elf at all.
Find an elf alternative
If you don't want to ditch the elf idea entirely, one U.K. mom has a different approach. Anna Ranson created Kindness Elves, little creatures that are less interested in naughty and nice and presents under the tree, and more concerned with love, kindness and gratitude .
Like Hewitt, Ranson says she's never been keen on the Santa story, nor has she had much use for his scout elves.
"Much as I loved the fun and magic of the Elf on the Shelf idea, I couldn't shake off the feeling that it was wrong to have him spying on the kids and reporting back to Santa about them," she told CTVNews.ca by email from the home she shares in England with her four kids.
Ranson decided that instead of an elf bent on snitching on kids at night, her Kindness Elves would appear when they heard that kids were doing good deeds.
Each day, the Kindness Elves present a little note to children, sometimes just to praise them for something nice they did; other times to suggest ways they could help others.
Ranson has drafted a list of suggested elf notes on her blog, The Imagination Tree. But she says the best ideas are usually the simplest: leaving a thank you note for the mailman; baking cookies for a neighbour; or making a homemade card for a worker in the neighbourhood.
"It's good to mix in some very simple kindness acts alongside those grander gestures, not only to make them more achievable but also to demonstrate that kindness is equally important in little everyday actions as big efforts," she says.
Ranson's Kindness Elves idea has been so popular, this year she decided to begin selling stuffed elves, packaged up with their own little mailboxes for notes. They sold out in a matter of days.
That's not surprising, as Ranson says she's gotten lots of positive response from parents who tell her their kids are learning to enjoy doing kind things without expecting anything in return but a good feeling.
"The Kindness Elves writing a simple note to say 'Let's smile at everyone we meet today!' can be the catalyst for turning someone's whole day around," says Ranson.
"What a powerful thing for a child to realize that they have the ability to do."