Moms who don’t do Elf on the Shelf explain their reasoning

I wrote about Elf on the Shelf back in December 2018. For anyone unfamiliar, this is a tradition that stems from a children’s book written in 2005. Parents place an Elf around the house the month prior to Christmas who is supposedly doing reconnaissance for Santa Claus. Somehow it became an Instagram opportunity to one up your friends and family about who can stage the Elf performing the cleverest prank instead. Back in 2018 I said, “I think this a fun tradition and if I had the energy, I’d do it,” and then made up some bs excuse about not being inventive enough to come up with ideas for the elves each year. That was a lie. I don’t Elf on the Shelf because I don’t want to and I never have. I don’t know why I told you I did, I must’ve wanted you to like me. I’m not alone. Parents spoke to Yahoo Life about why they don’t do Elf on the Shelf. Only their reasons are a lot deeper than mine, like they feel it’s wrong to use “a spying elf as a behavior management tool” and the fear of eroding trust with the child when they learn the Elf isn’t real.

About a month before Christmas, many children find a new resident in their home: an Elf on the Shelf. By day, the small creatures spend their time watching how children behave. By night, elves fly back to the North Pole to deliver a report, only to return the next morning to resume their watch from a different spot.

Some parents take the tradition to the extreme, spending hours planning how to present their elf each morning and executing their plans every night after their children go to bed.
But other parents resist the idea of the elf entirely, with some citing concerns about using a spying elf as a behavior management tool.

“I don’t love that [my son] would feel he is being evaluated every second of every day,” mom Taylor Bealtells Yahoo Life. “He doesn’t have to perform for us to celebrate the magic of Christmas.”

A key component of the Elf on the Shelf story is that children believe they will get better presents if the elf delivers a good report to Santa. Traci Williams, a board-certified child and family psychologist, says she’s concerned that when elves are used to control a child’s behavior, parents engage in empty threats. They often tell their children that if the elf doesn’t deliver a good report Santa won’t bring them gifts, which never happens. Moreover, the elf is only around for a month so parents need to develop other ways to reinforce good behavior the rest of the year, creating inconsistency. Children may even wonder why they need to behave if the elf isn’t watching them.

Zoe Kumpfmueller has resisted the elf in part because she believes it’s important “to give our children the message that they should try to be on their best behavior all year round, rather than just in the run-up to Christmas.”

Though Williams loves the holidays and believes that family traditions are important, she warns that leaning on a made-up story to control one’s kids “may erode trust and the child might wonder what else you were lying about.” Asking children to accept the elf without question also discourages children to think critically at a time when parents should be encouraging this essential skill.

Another aspect of the Elf on the Shelf tradition she and other moms who spoke to Yahoo Life object to is the great lengths many parents go to create elaborate, Instagram-worthy displays, many of which require pricey props. Parent Sally Allsop warns that over-the-top elfing might not go as expected since it’s hard to stop. “Friends of mine have started it and regretted it.” Another danger according to Allsop: “One [friend] even said her child was getting up at 4 a.m. to see where the elf was.”

[From Yahoo]

These elves are literally an extension of the Santa Claus myth so how is their story different? Santa sees us when we’re sleeping. He’s knows when we’re awake. The implication was Santa could see us all the time and that’s how he made his infamous list. I haven’t read the Elf book but isn’t it just an explanation of how he had eyes on the ground? Almost all the arguments made above against the elves can be made against Santa. Granted I’ll never win any parenting awards, but I absolutely used Santa Claus to my advantage, “Don’t make me call Santa.” “You know Santa can see you, right?” “This close to Christmas, really?” The same goes for the ‘lying’ part, eventually they will find out the truth about Santa, I assume. And the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy and any other childhood invention we told them about. There are parents who feel you shouldn’t tell kids these stories for this very reason, like Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard, and that’s fine. But you can’t single the Elves out.

The article also addressed the peer pressure of Elfing. That’s more relatable, for me at least. I would smash my head into a wall if I had to come up with Elf pranks every day for three weeks before Christmas every year. And my kids would absolutely be the ones up at 4AM looking for the little bastard. One of the moms interviewed sounded just the slightest bit bitter at seeing the lengths her friends go to on these things. I imagine competition to out-Elf each other is fierce. One mom said she said no to the Elf. She told her son, who wanted to know why all the other kids got visited and he didn’t, that he was already so well behaved, he didn’t need one. She thought she was quite cunning, boosting his confidence and all. But you know he rubbed that in the other kids faces at school (after Christmas, of course. When Santa wasn’t watching).

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104 Responses to “Moms who don’t do Elf on the Shelf explain their reasoning”

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  1. Murphy says:

    I don’t want to have to move it around all the time, I’m not that creative.

    • Runaway says:

      Exactly! When my kid asked me just this weekend why we don’t have one, I said because they are naughty and always getting into mischief when we’re not around, and besides I already have a direct line to Santa. I don’t need any elf to do my bidding.
      Really I just don’t wanna come up with all these hijinks because I know myself and I’ll wanna top myself every time and it will just be something else to stress over.

    • Size Does Matter says:

      The instant anxiety when I would wake up in the morning and realize I forgot to move the dang elf.

    • Meghan says:

      If it was just moving the elf to different places I would potentially consider it. But all of these elaborate stunts and stuff that people do? Nope, not doing it. And the elf is a creepy little snitch.

      This is one of the places where I am all “look, I didn’t have this growing up and Santa gave me presents just fine.”

  2. Eurydice says:

    This must happen well outside my circle of friends, family and acquaintances, because this is just not a thing we even think about. My niece created an imaginary elf named Holly, but she would just travel along with Santa and help with the packages. We would leave a special dish of cookies for Hollie along with a special message from my niece and then “Hollie” would leave a holiday message to my niece in return.

    But this elf/shelf thing sounds like all the other guilt-inducing, performative, “I’m better than you” Christmas “traditions.”

    • Laur says:

      It may have started as a nice tradition for families, but I agree it’s definitely become this “I’m better than you” thing or a competition to see who “loves” their kid the most with elaborate pranks and set ups.

      I remember when my youngest was 3, I got slammed by a group of parents for not participating in elf on the shelf. I was a single mom at the time, I worked nights, and couldn’t figure out the logistics of the whole elf thing when 3 nights a week one of my parents stayed overnight to watch my son while I worked. I felt guilty asking my parents to do one more thing. I also didn’t have an extra $40 to spend on an elf… it would have been $40 not spent on a gift for my son. When he was old enough to ask I simply told him it’s a tradition for some families, not for ours, and that’s why we don’t have an elf. Just like some families do advent calendars and some don’t, some families do Christmas trees and some don’t, etc.

      It’s just become one more thing for parents to “out-parent” each other. I feel like it’s not even about the kids anymore, and that’s pretty sad.

      • Eurydice says:

        In one neighborhood where I lived, there used to be a “Best Decorated House” competition. I swear, there were so many lights you see the place from the moon. All except for a great dark spot in the middle of the block – that was our house. My parents refused to spend the time and money, not to mention climbing all over the house in the cold…twice.

      • Hello Kitty says:

        My elf on the shelf sits up high on the living room bookcase. He rarely gets used as a behavioral management tool and that’s only when my kid is trying to murder her little brother. I don’t have the book because it cost $30 which is insane for a children’s book. I’m not moving him around and I’m sure as hell not coming up with elaborate elf pranks daily because you know… I work. he’s essentially part of our Christmas decorations. For everyone who has the time and energy to come up with those pranks and cutely post them on social media, kudos.

  3. Normades says:

    I don’t Elf on a shelf because I didn’t grow up with the tradition and totally missed the 2000 origins. I kinda feel about it like I do gender reveal parties: over the top and a bit obnoxious. Sorry 😐

    • Jenn says:

      With you on both counts.

    • Anners says:

      I’m right with you! I will never forget after my cousin had her first baby, while discussing Christmas ideas with the rest of us my Aunt whirled around and with more vehemence than I thought the situation warranted, ordered all of us to forget about the elf on the shelf because that’s what *she* wanted to get. I then had to go to google and figure out what the elf was all about. Seems like just one more thing that requires extra attention and creativity in a month that already seems to take up a lot of space. No thank you.

    • Laura-Lee MacDonald says:

      Exactly! Any ‘tradition’ that started when my kids were already born holds little to no cultural relevance to me.

      Now, our annual viewing of Die Hard? That’s sacred and holy and is to be never questioned.

    • DK says:

      Right there with you. Also, my much less thoughtful reason is: they are way too f’ing creepy.

      Yes, the whole Foucaultian panopticon part of it is super creepy, but for me, it’s mainly just their faces. SO creepy!

    • TigerMcQueen says:

      I’m with you all the way!

      I’ve never done elf of the shelf because I think it’s stupid. And you nailed it with the comparison to the gender reveal parties.

  4. BUBS says:

    “But you can’t single the Elves out.” Hahahahahahaha! It’s the way you’re so upset about this “injustice” against the poor Elves!

  5. Laura-Lee MacDonald says:

    I refuse to do this “tradition” because I have enough sh*t to do to maintain my loved ones expectations of the holidays that, through my own ridiculousness and enthusiasm, I managed to set.

    • AMA1977 says:

      Yes, yes, yes, all of this!! I posted a longer screed below (when this post had zero replies, lol, I’m wordy AF), but this is exactly it.

  6. Brassy Rebel says:

    Some of these parents are taking this waaay too seriously. It’s just a game! The kids know early on it’s not real. IMHO, they know about Santa too, but they play along because why ruin a good thing?

    • Scarlet Vixen says:

      @Brassy Rebel: Kind of a funny story about believing in Santa…I grew up not observing Xmas & didn’t start until I was around 30. When I had my kids I was firm about no Santa stuff–just told my kids it’s a nice story about giving or whatever, because I think the whole idea of making kids believe he’s real & gives them gifts is dumb & unnecessary. My husband was worried they’d go to school & tell other kids Santa isn’t real but I didn’t worry too much about it. But one year my 5yr old son came home from kindergarten and accusingly said, “Mom, you LIED to me! Santa IS real!!” Kids at school had convinced him I was the one lying. 🤣

    • Fabiola says:

      Who are these kids that think theses elves are real and who are these parents that have this much time in their hands to play make believe games? To each their own but it sounds like a lot. Kids know it’s their parents that buy their gifts.

  7. Jessica says:

    We don’t do it bc it is creepy and weird and also think it is kind of dumb. For us. Not judging anyone else doing it…more power to them.

    We also told our kids from the very beginning there is no Santa, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, etc…

    I could not look my child in the eye and tell him some old ass white guy was watching him all year to determine if he deserved presents…so we just didn’t do any of it. We do presents, and Easter baskets and money for lost teeth but they know where it comes from and that these are characters in stories that some people believe are real and not to ruin it for anyone else.

    That creepy doll though. Hard pass.

  8. Jay says:

    Yeah, I’ve always found the elf on the shelf thing exhausting, but I also hate the “Santa is watching” thing. Maybe I’m just a Grinch, lol.
    First of all, I want my kid to do the right thing always, not just if they think they are being watched. And secondly, I think it sends a harmful message that kids who get tons of expensive presents must “deserve” them. So, if that’s true, are kids whose families can’t afford these things “bad”? That seems like a train of thought I’d like to avoid.

    Santa visits our house, but he brings things we need (new pajamas, a book) and fills our stockings because he is generous and kind, just like I want my kid to be. There’s no strings attached, no threats of getting a lump of coal etc. Anything they get that’s new or more expensive comes from us or grandparents.

    • Anne says:

      Love your take. I totally agree that what bothers me the most about the elf is the concept that “you need to behave well on the surface SO THAT you get rewarded.” And I’m sorry, but very little children don’t see the joke in it. They take things quite literally and internalize everything.

    • TigerMcQueen says:

      I really disliked the extravagance I witnessed among some in my family before we had kids. There was totally a feeling among kids too young to understand that those with more must have deserved it more. So we’re not overly religious, but when we had kids, my husband and I said becasue Jesus got three gifts for Christmas, that’s how many the kids would get each since we were celebrating that birthday. We did stockings too, to technially there were more than three gifts, but the extra ones were small. And the three were never very big, because we stuck with a budget. Christmas was never over the top in our house.

      The kids are teens now, so all they want is money. They’re getting alarm clocks in their stockings lololol.

      • kgeo says:

        I did alarm clocks last year! I’m doing echo dots this year so it’s easier to set the alarm, especially after the power goes out. Plus, they can make their own playlists.

    • Kate says:

      Jay, I like that approach to Santa gifting.

      I also really liked this approach to explaining the concept of “Santa” when they are old enough. Basically when you grow up enough you can become a Santa by discovering what someone else might need/want and getting it for them. I thought it was such a nice way to let kids have the magic of Santa and explaining it in a way that was truthful later.

  9. mellie says:

    I’m so glad this crap wasn’t around when my kids were growing up. I do like seeing what other people come up with, but there is no way I could keep up with 24 days of this nonsense.

    • Larelyn says:

      My kids were too old for this when it came out, too. And I never liked going along with the Santa/Toothfairy/Easter Bunny lies either.

      BUT…. during Covid, my daughter was gifted an AmongUs plushie from a friend since that was the only way they could really spent time during the shutdown. The whole family minus my daughter made a fun game of hiding the amogus around the house for her to find. She couldn’t figure out which of us was doing it (it didn’t occur to her until much later that we all were in on it).

      I’m not against elf on a shelf if it’s a fun, obvious family bonding thing. But acting like the elf is sentient? No thanks.

  10. Becks1 says:

    We do it because I think its fun and the boys get a kick out of it, but we’re pretty low key about it. As in, the most the elf does is get into some flour when he’s trying to make cookies or something. None of those really elaborate set ups. Its mostly moving him around from the tree to the mantel to the shelf to the couch and back to the tree.

    I honestly don’t care if other people do it or not. If its not for you, great. If some people like to be more elaborate about it, great. For me the point of holiday traditions is to have fun and celebrate, whatever form that takes for people.

    but I did roll my eyes at this article. Like Hecate said, all of these anti-elf excuses could be used for Santa, Just say you don’t want to do it and move on.

    • Moneypenny424 says:

      I completely agree. The key is to set expectations low :). Our elf doesn’t move every day. She’s never in elaborate situations. She just moves and the kids love it. The past two years I’ve put her in a covered cake plate and said she was in quarantine for COVID–she stays in there for 5 days!

    • Dillesca says:

      I also agree. I also rolled my eyes at the article– you can choose to reinforce different aspects of the book and the Santa myth. Are we not exhausted enough without inserting every possible meaning or implication into a tradition?!
      We do Elf on the Shelf with our kids (aged 5 and 2), because it’s fun for them (and shouldn’t that be enough?). They just get such a kick out of searching for “Elfie” and seeing where she ended up that morning. And we don’t do anything special with where she is– we just move her… maybe put a lollipop in her hand or something… that’s it. And if we make cookies after they go to bed (just to have cookies…) we say “Elfie must have made them!” They love to read the book, so they know that, according to cannon, she “reports” to Santa on their behavior, but at least so far they don’t seem focused on that at all. This article is written as if parents have no ability to contextualize the Christmas traditions they choose to do with their children.

  11. LightPurple says:

    There’s enough extra work to do during December without positioning an elf doll in creative locations every day.

    And this thing has no limits; two co-workers were asking those of us of Irish heritage about a Leprechaun on the shelf sort of thing in March that friends of their kids were doing. They were told it was an Irish tradition and the kids would get treats on St Patrick’s Day. Our librarian, from Kells, told them in no uncertain terms that she had never heard of such a thing, she would never do that with her kids, and her sisters, who are in Ireland, weren’t doing it with theirs and no, they didn’t have to do it either, especially as they weren’t even Irish.

  12. Bitsycs says:

    My kids are 12 and 16 and I’ve done the elf for 14y now (thanks to my mother in law buying it all those years ago). The nice thing about that is that our traditions with it were baked in before my kids were exposed to other kids and before it blew up. Ours actually don’t spy for Santa, they come to help us have fun and count down to Christmas. They also don’t do pranks, they mostly just move around and bring treats now and again, including advent calendars on December 1st. When the kids were younger, they brought polar express train tickets, and now they’ll maybe bring tickets to a movie or Christmas show. Of course my 16yo no longer believes…my 12yo probably doesn’t believe but still enjoys it and plays along.

    I think the most annoying thing about the elf is how people get caught up in trying to outdo each other or get mad because kids talk to each other about it. Like most things, I find it pretty easy to just tell my kids, “this is what we do, I don’t know about anyone else.”

    • Twin Falls says:

      Our elf brings a small piece of candy every day in December and places it in the advent calendar house for the kids to find. I did this myself for years with an invisible elf with first child why I got sucked into adding a toy elf to the mix for my second I’ll never know and always regret. The elf doesn’t spy. Neither does Santa, really. We’re a big into magic and myths and fairytales house. It’s all for fun and entertainment (minus the toy elf that is kind of a killjoy lol).

      • Smalltowngirl says:

        Our elf moves around between a few places and about evert other day brings a small gift (candy, an ornament, our gingerbread house). No pranks, no spying. My kids love it. We have had our health for 7 years now and he is basically a family member (he even quarantined in 2020)

    • Erin says:

      @Bitsycs-These are actually great ideas thank you! If we end up digging him out this year I’ll try and do that instead of him literally doing nothing and me having to remember to move him for no reason.

      I’m not on social media now so I’ve never posted about it but even when we first did it for one year with my now fourth grader when he was in preschool I remember it was already starting to be a one up contest with moms SM.

    • Kate says:

      I wasn’t interested in doing elf on the shelf until my daughter went off to school and she had one on her bus and one in her classroom and liked it. I am starting it this year but I’m skipping the book and am going to do it the same way – just an elf here to help get them into the Christmas spirit.

      I bought some cheap crafts at Michael’s and came up with some little projects or games the elf will give them each day and on weekends when we have more time the elf will give them a gingerbread house kit one day, or tell them to go see a local christmas lights show.

      I honestly don’t like the spying thing for the same reasons as in the article and I don’t think it’s quite the same as Santa b/c he is out of sight out of mind for most kids unless the parents are constantly threatening lumps of coal every time their kids get out of hand. I don’t think it’s necessarily harmful or anything and understand why some people do it, but I can see my youngest feeling extra upset if he had a temper tantrum and then was afraid about the elf seeing it and saying he was “bad”. But that’s personal to our family because my kiddo is a big feeler and has a lot of shame when he loses control of his emotions.

  13. Anne says:

    I had a co-worker who used the elf-on-a-shelf to keep her 3 year old in bed. She came work thrilled that even when her daughter was scared with a nightmare the daughter stayed in bed until wake up time because she was afraid the elf would report back to Santa (so the mom got her full 8-hours– I need my sleep too, but I would NEVER want my child terrified in bed, alone, because of some lie). So elf on a shelf? I think it’s completely obnoxious on every level, and I think it’s quite a bit more insidious than the Santa myth especially because parents can do with Santa what they want. In our house we never cite Santa as a threat, but the whole elf on a shelf story IS about surveillance and the threat of “behave otherwise no material stuff”. Could there be anything more messed up in our already messed up capitalist society than “You need to superficially behave SO THAT you get a reward.” What about just learning how to be a good human being for the sake of being a good human being? Santa can just be a symbol of the magic of Christmas and the joy of giving… there is no choice with that damn elf.

  14. Jen says:

    I questioned the existence of Santa at age 3, and my 5 year old sibling, who clearly already knew Santa was just a story had no poker face, so. We still hung stockings, and had Christmas traditions. However, my parents fully opted out of the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy from the beginning.

    My reaction to the elf is fully in the “who has time for this sh–” category.

  15. og bella says:

    haha. This came out when my kids were little. They just turned 18. I just left it in one of their beds the night of Thanksgiving the other day. Took her 2 days to realize it. We were all amused.

    At first, they FREAKED out because I would move it during the day, like, it was on this table in the living room and I called them in for lunch and went back and moved it so it was on a chair peeking out behind a pillow. They freaked so bad I had to stop for a while, but eventually they learned that “Sophie” was a good elf and it became a big tradition.

    Yeah, there were some drunken nights over the years that Sophie didn’t move (Oops, daddy must have touched her by accident so she can’t move until her magic is restored). One year, she had a broken leg so she couldn’t move for weeks!! That was a stroke of genius.

    After they got older, the tradition became who ever finds her gets to hide her and at the end of the season, who ever has the longest run of her not being found, wins! There are rules of course – she has to be hidden in plain site. If it was in a closet/cabinet, it has to be one that was used, etc…,

    I have plans to convince their roommates in college to plant her in their dorm room when they get there next year *evil cackle*. or maybe pay the RA….the wheels are turning. My hub wants to attach it to the grill of their car and have ketchup dripping down. Yes, we’re demented, but it’s a fun demented!!

  16. Maria T. says:

    I’ve never done it. My MIL bought them for my kids and I just didn’t do it. I have no problem with it and love seeing the funny memes and how creative other parents are. I just don’t have anything left in the tank this time of year.

    • Justwastingtime says:

      Yes. Given annual year end job demands and absolutely everything else just a general lack of capacity to add one more thing. Plenty of my friends and family did it, I just explained that the elf only came to certain houses. Mean mommy alert here.

  17. Cee says:

    So that’s what this is, I have googled in the past and still didn’t understand this trend.
    I get the parents’ concerns but it can also be done in a fun way without the “the Elf is here to determine if you’ve been good enough to receive a present from Santa” but more of “Elf is here to help ud get ready for Christmas! He´ll help us cook, bake and give us silly ideas while we wait for the 25th”.

    • og bella says:

      In my little mom circle, it was done for fun. None of us were overly elaborate or used it to discipline the kids. We did it for fun. Although, there were times that tried outdoing each other with the elves doing naughty things – but that was to amuse each other. The kids never saw it.

    • Joanna says:

      Thanks now I don’t feel so stupid. I had heard but didn’t really know what it was!

  18. FC says:

    I have 3 kids, now ages 7-12. We have an Elf only because I don’t want my kids to feel left out (they have one in their school classroom, for Christ sake). The biggest reasons I hate our elf Joey:

    1. It’s SO obviously fake that it makes kids stop believing in Santa way sooner than they should.

    2. It’s stressful AF. My husband and I set the bar super low — we just move him and don’t get creative — but have to set alarms and wake up crazy early if we forget to move him out of fear our youngest will stop believing in EVERYTHING if we forget to move him once.

    3. Kids who don’t have elves feel horrible. My niece has 5 ELVES and my daughter’s friend has zero. At best it’s classist, at worst it ruins Christmas.

    4. The entire concept is terrible for kids, great for insta/Facebook moms on a narcissistic trip.

    Sorry Hecate this post was triggering. 😂

    • Erin says:

      I’m on the same page as you for the most part. My first grader has already come home asking when our elf is coming because kids at school have theirs already and she is so sweet and excited about it I don’t want to ruin it for her. The rest of my kids I don’t think really care.

      My mother actually got it for us and I wasn’t too happy about it because I never intended on doing it as it’s just another thing to do when I’m already doing all the things. I remember when I worked at a hallmark as seasonal help while I was pregnant with my first and thinking, yeah I’m never doing this.

      We have also skipped years. We did it when my oldest son was in preschool then forgot for a few years but have done it the last two. We also just move it around and don’t do anything else and definitely forget sometimes and we just have said maybe he fell asleep and forgot to fly home. I honestly would love to get rid of it. Also, my kids don’t care if he sees them being “naughty” they act exactly the same so I don’t even have that going for me.

    • Laughysaphy says:

      Yes, my son has had one in his classroom since daycare and he’s in first now. Thankfully he hasn’t asked why we don’t have an elf at home. I find the elf creepy af and I am too lazy for that nonsense.

  19. Aidevee says:

    Ah, I’ve just remembered the smug, self satisfied feeling of contentment that I allow myself on about 21st December where I find I can laze in my bed in the morning without needing to panic and stuff an elf down the back of the radiator strapped to a tennis ball.

  20. VAL says:

    I am so happy I never started with EOTS. The idea was cute but it became a competition that was more about what craziness the parents could come up with every day to top each other. I was the mom who was barely able to get the tooth fairy business for three kids done right. EOTS is a lot of daily pressure in an already stressful month. I did have a wooden advent calendar that I would place a small candy in every day for my kids. I told them the elf filled it every day, but they never saw him. And if they happened to peek before it was filled, I said the elf must still be on his way.

    • Erin says:

      Omg, we have forgotten about the tooth fairy so many times that now we have made up an excuse about why the tooth fairy didn’t take the tooth and it’s because it wasn’t clean enough so we have to put it in some water for the day and try again the next night lol.

  21. Lucy says:

    I don’t do the elf, because I don’t want to. And I’m fine with other people doing it, just like we make a gingerbread house every year and decorate it, not everything is for everyone.

    I do mute people (moms, because it’s always moms) on FB who make a giant deal about the elf and post every day what they’ve done. I don’t want to see your performative b’s, thanks. If it was really about the kids, they wouldn’t be posting it all the time. I really truly deeply hate the performative elf posting. I snooze for thirty days (which is the only time I do that rather than straight undfriending) and pretend it’s not a thing.

    • Kate says:

      This is a super reasonable attitude and I agree! Do it if you have the energy for it and don’t if you don’t. Ignore people who are obnoxious about it.

    • Dillesca says:

      Very reasonable, and I hate the performative posting too!

  22. AMA1977 says:

    A topic for meeeee!!! My kids are now 15 and 10, and when the oldest was prime “Elf age” I saw the book at Target and steered him away from it. He never mentioned it, and we carried on with our Christmas/Santa traditions (in my house, just like in my house growing up, Santa brings you one really cool gift that shows up overnight Christmas Eve, but everything else is from mom and dad or other family members (including the dog!) and gets wrapped and put under the tree as the giver has it ready. “Santa” presents also get special paper that doesn’t get used for any other present.) No Elf, no problem.

    We moved from inside the city to the suburbs when the kids were 5 and 10, and my younger one made an impassioned plea for an Elf because most of her new friends had one, but I held steadfast. Chiefly because I don’t have the desire or inclination to make that damn doll do stuff so I can post how clever I am on SM, but also because it seemed wholly unnecessary and I have enough to do this time of year. I’m glad I never wavered. She’s fine, BTW. Figured out Santa the year she turned 7 and now it’s so much easier since we can just acknowledge that he’s not real, lol.

    Moms of little kids, my advice to you is to SKIP IT. Use the time you would be stressing about moving the damn Elf (or cleaning up the previous night’s scene) to put on a face mask and read a few pages of a book. Or something else you enjoy. The holiday magic is no joke, and you need to take care of you! 🙂

  23. Mel says:

    I’m first generation American so my parents didn’t do this. What a weird thing to do, oh well, you like it, I love it.

  24. K says:

    I love Christmas and love most traditions. But haha, even just reading about this is exhausting.

  25. HeyKay says:

    Elf on a shelf is a big No! from me.
    Waste of time and money. And stop trying to give me a hard time because we don’t commercialize the holidays in my family!

    I have had enough with all the buy, buy, buy.
    No, I will not.

    I decorate lightly, gifts to the under 20 y/o. And we are fine.

  26. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    Elves, Santa, God. We’re all indoctrinated to behave, someone’s watching all the time. This is a bittersweet convo as I am sooooo glad my kids are grown and I don’t have to make Santa tracks, put toys together with my husband by candlelight sipping egg nog. But I am sooooo sad my kids are grown and I don’t have to make Santa tracks, put toys together with my husband by candlelight sipping egg nog.

  27. Queenie says:

    My kids LOVED it but I definitely regretted starting it. I was solo parenting more than I had the bandwidth to do and was barely making it through the day. Remembering to move the f**ing elf every night nearly put me over the edge 😂

  28. AnneL says:

    This came out when my kids were little. My husband is Jewish and we raised them in that religion, so obviously I didn’t do it. But even if we had been celebrating Christmas like I did as a kid, I would NOT have wanted to do this.

    First off, I had enough to do with my family, job and house. Having to come up with a clever hiding spot for the Elf every night would have been a pain in the neck. All the one-upmanship from other parents and kids with the hiding places and the number of elves would have been exhausting and annoying.

    I also think the whole concept is creepy. Sure, we were told Santa knew if we’d been “naughty or nice” but Santa wasn’t in my house in the form of a plastic doll or whatever, lurking in unexpected places and spying on me. Being “good” was kind of expected anyway? That wasn’t all on Santa.

    I can see how it could be fun for some families but I don’t like the concept, in general. My daughter had night terrors (different from nightmares, she never remembered them in the morning) until she was about six and this would have made them worse.

  29. Mcmmom says:

    Oh not just no, but HELL no. Never did it. It sounded like a ton more work for ME and for what payout? Plus, I thought the whole thing was creepy. I love the holidays and this added ZERO extra joy to Christmas.

    • Nicole says:

      Same! Honestly, I’m lucky I have the energy to get food on the table for dinner. I have to muster up the energy to pack lunch for one of my boys. I’ve got zero interest in keeping up with a stupid elf.

  30. Bookie says:

    Thank goodness I’m Jewish. 😉

  31. Prairiegirl says:

    There are enough expectations around Christmas – decorating, gift buying and wrapping, baking, cooking – that fall largely on women’s laps. Personally, I wasn’t prepared to take on any more Christmas-related tasks, especially BS nonsense like Elf on a Shelf!

  32. Surly Gale says:

    My kid was already an adult when this came out, so though I’ve heard of it, it was never part of our Christmas traditions. Now that said, a couple of weeks ago I saw an ad for “Snoop on a Stoop”. I laughed out loud. One will be in my 38 yo son’s stocking this year. I got one for me, too and crack myself up each time I glance at him. As I live alone, and it makes me laugh, I please myself.
    Currently Snoop is hanging out on my mini-Christmas tree, lit but with no decorations yet, except for him.
    That said, I have, since girlhood, grown a collection of wizards, gnomes, faeries and fairies that move around the garden throughout the seasons. Some move indoors during the winter; others stay in the garden. Buddha stays in the garden year-round. As this is Snoop on a Stoop’s first year, I cannot say yet whether he’ll hang out all year or go into the bin with the other Christmas decorations when the time comes. Elf on a Shelf just makes me want to watch the movie Elf…which I will when I’ve pulled up the Christmas decor bins and really start decorating. I tend to put the lights up first though, cause they are so pretty in the rain and again, brighten my heart with a laugh which brightens my day. And I hope brightens others’ day/night. Team ‘Snoop on a Stoop’ for fun not for spying or mind control or potential punishments. I’m in it for the grins and giggles.

    • Southern Fried says:

      Oh, lights! Ours go up first also and are so warming and feel special. We start turning off the other lights in the evening and it I swear it calms the kids making it easier to get them to bed. Your idea of fairies I like.

    • Mari Newell says:

      YES!! I have Snoop and have been moving him throughout the house for my own amusement. So fun!

    • Lionel says:

      Jimmy Kimmel did a whole series on “alternate elves.” Google “Trump on a Stump” or “Fauci on the Couchie” for a good giggle!

  33. ME says:

    I have never celebrated Christmas, but I’m telling you if I spent hundreds of dollars on gifts for my kids, they would know I paid for them, not some imaginary White dude in a red suit.

    • Sue says:

      So, growing up, every Christmas gift I got was from Santa. My husband on the other hand would get one gift from Santa and the rest were from his parents. I like his idea better. My babe will darn well know who she got her presents from.

  34. Southern Fried says:

    Our family already has lots of traditions I consider more important so it seemed silly to add a spying elf to the mix. I mean there’s cookie decorating , candy making & delivering those, certain books we read, programs to attend like musical events that are scheduled in Dec, as gifts to the parents, there church events. Presents to make and or shop for, decorating the house, the list goes on & Dec is crammed. One thing we started was give each kid their own cheap table top tree for their bedrooms. With ornament hooks (or paper clips lol) glue-gunned on whatever they want, matchbox cars, plastic animals or shells, whatever. No lights, nothing bought, just kid stuff. Another tradition is taking a ‘well day’ skipping school and giving them a small set sum of money to spend on their siblings. I cherish that day, like a Monday when there’s not so many shoppers out, the kids giddy. Ending with splurging on hot chocolate out somewhere, even a fast food place. .

  35. Mina_Esq says:

    I never believed in Santa and never lead my kid to believe he is real. We had St Nikolas and Krampus, but my parents never made me believe that they were real and would come to our house to reward/punish me. I always knew the presents were from my parents. If I were a kid, I’d be scared of the Elf. The Elf is creepy af.

  36. Bre says:

    When I was growing up my parents said the angel on top of the tree reported back to Santa. The angel and I were not friends. Lol.

  37. Lululu says:

    My kids thought this was the creepiest thing ever. My younger dd wouldn’t even spend the night at friends’ houses during the holidays if they had one. She didn’t like the idea of a mischievous little asshole running around the house doing Lord-knows-what while everyone was asleep.

  38. Sophia says:

    Elf on the shelf always seemed like a way to scare/shame your kids into “good” behaviour. We told our 4 year old that Santa can’t actually see you when you’re sleeping and that Santa doesn’t base gifts for children on how good they’ve been. In regards to the trust part, we have also never explicitly said that Santa was real but instead always ask him if he thinks Santa is real and try to focus on the other aspects of Christmas.

  39. JB says:

    I lived in an Elf heavy neighborhood and said no f-ing way. It creeped me out. The doll itself has creepy eyes. I just hate how a company can do X and now all these parents (and let’s guess mostly moms) have to deal with this? Argh!!! Glad you wrote about this.

  40. Sue says:

    I have a 16 month old and I don’t even have the energy to take down my Fall decorations (that I put up one afternoon when hubby took baby to her grandparents’) and put up Christmas decorations. I don’t have the energy to do this. When I was a kid, an Advent calendar was exciting enough – my sister and I got to take turns every morning opening the little windows.

  41. Frippery says:

    Parents who don’t do elf on a shelf are NOT LAZY. I see a lot of you in the comments joking that you don’t do it because “you’re lazy”. If any of you actually feel that way:

    The lazy parent guilt is absolutely real and it is absolutely bullshit. You are not lazy if you don’t want to do elf on a shelf. You are not a bad parent or a less fun parent. Parenting is HARD WORK. You DESERVE some time where parent mode is turned off. If you are anything like me, once the kids are in bed, there are still dirty dishes to do, dirty laundry, garbage cans to empty. You do not need to feel bad for not wanting to add one more thing to the pile because yes, one more thing does make a big difference. Especially at Christmas time when the pressure to make things magical for our kids is a lot, and everyone is worried about money, trying to keep up with family obligations, it’s all a LOT. Wanting to spend a half hour taking a bath, or sleeping, or having dinner without interruption, instead of staging an elf scene, does not make you LAZY. You do a lot. It is enough. You are doing an amazing job.

    Just, if anyone needed to hear it, there it is.

  42. imara219 says:

    Our family decided not to focus on Christmas because of paganism, but once my son was born, it was a wrap 😀. We don’t decorate, but we give him Christmas gifts, and now my son is five, and he likes Christmas decor, so we might decorate our door, but I keep decor in the winter theme style. Saying all of that to say, we don’t do an Elf on the Shelf. I never planned to because, from my perspective, it seemed excessive, extra, weird, and social media clout. I refuse now because we don’t like a lot of the origins involved with these myths. At least we are consistent. We don’t “do” Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, or Elf on the Shelf.

  43. Katie says:

    Is Elf on the Shelf as popular as it’s ever been? I live in a town with very involved parents and a fair number of well-to-do families where the moms only work part time or not at all and really do up kid stuff, and I haven’t heard one peep about Elf on the Shelf. (For which I am extremely grateful.)

  44. FHMom says:

    Nope. Never did it. My kids asked why we didnt have one, and I told them because it was fake. I support Santa, but not some a**hole doll that makes more work for me. My kids are late teens now, and I can’t believe it is still a thing. It always seemed dumb and manipulative.

  45. North of Boston says:

    Whatever your opinion on TEoTS, can we all agree that the elf prank in the bottom photo is a ginormous fall hazard?

    A roll of anything, in the middle of the stairs, where people will be walking first thing in the morning when half awake? Yeah, no!

    (Granted I’ve tripped down stairs after getting a toe caught in the leg of my own pajama bottoms before, so I might have a dirty lens on this one LOl)

  46. Molly says:

    Why on earth would we choose to add another layer of work, pressure and expectation to parents during the holiday season. While I enjoy the occasional inventive and witty expression of this activity, I’m glad I never got involved in these extra shenanigans!

  47. Mrs Soup says:

    We were given one at our first baby shower but have never used it. My oldest has anxiety and is convinced that the Elf is a giant tattletale. It does NOT help their mental health at all. We have done the Reindeer in Here with some success. You can actually touch the reindeer and it can stay past Christmas. Plus, the reindeer and all his friends all have some physical or neurological differences. The focus is one being the best you you can be. (Sorry to sound like an ad!)

    • Imara219 says:

      Now, this sounds cute and something we would do in my household. I try focusing on winter iconology during this time, not Christmas-specific things.

  48. Aviva2 says:

    I’m Jewish, and this year we’re getting a Mensch on a Bench. He just sits watching the Hanukkah candles, though. Christmas magic seems like so much work.

  49. Jenn says:

    The argument I’ve always heard against Elf on the Shelf is that it’s a microcosm of a larger, systemic erosion of privacy, and that it could condition children to not question other surveillance technologies’ presence in the home. Where the individual family chooses to draw that line is personal, though.

    My husband bought a silly-cute hunk of plastic called “Chaffy” — I guess it’s based on a book called ‘Find Chaffy’? — and the premise is basically the same. When you find Chaffy, you snap a pic with him and then hide him in the next spot. That could be an interesting option for any anti-Elf families who would like to play a lower-stakes game around the house.

  50. Rebecca says:

    I just bought Snoop on a Stoop but my youngest is 21!

  51. The Recluse says:

    This Elf on the Shelf thing is just the dumbest thing I ever heard of.
    Apparently, the author looked at one of those vintage Elf decorations that a lot of us grew up with, harmless made in Japan decorations that we all had, and decided to write a dumb book about it. Now, it’s become a thing. I actually had to reassure a co-worker that this Elf thing wasn’t anything at all like the author made it out to be (because it was weirding my co-worker out) and told her how it was just taken from a vintage Christmas decoration that everyone had. It’s beyond annoying to see what has been done with it. It needs to go away.
    By the way, have fun getting a true vintage one off of EBay. Those things start bidding wars.

  52. jferber says:

    I’ve soft-core hated that elf for years. It’s ugly and dumb.

  53. B says:

    When my kid has the opportunity to do something poopy without getting caught, I want him to remember, there are other reasons we act right.

  54. bears says:

    I have a 3 year old and a 3 month old. I don’t do EOAS because most days I can’t even remember to brush my own teeth let alone move around a stupid little doll. My EOAS would stay in one place, hidden on the top of the fridge until everyone forgets he exists.

  55. Jezzebeelzebub says:

    I just didn’t want to. And it’s not because I gave it a lot of thought or anything, I just thought it was lame. My kid would’ve never believed it anyway. She figured Santa out freakishly early- so early that i had to ask her not to tell her classmates that their parents were all full of shit. Also, since we’re a kind of antisocial bunch, she’d have known there’s no way I’d have signed off on a houseguest, no matter how small or “seemingly” inanimate. So yeah. Elfless.