Why we’re saying “Hell, No!” to Elf on the Shelf

If you don’t know what Elf on the Shelf is, let me enlighten you. Many people online are calling it an “American tradition” but as it’s only been going on since 2005 I’m going to go ahead and call it a “pile of American consumeristic exploitative marketing crap.”

A not-very-old-at-all Christmas Tradition
A not-very-old-at-all Christmas Tradition

The basic premise is this: an Elf is sent from Santa on the 1st of December to stay in your house until Christmas, spying on your children and reporting their behaviour back to Santa. If they are bad, no presents for them! Originally the elf just hid somewhere in the house each night, but these days it’s becoming a bit out of hand. Frequently the “mischievous” little elves get up to various antics in the night, often playing tricks on their hosts, being naughty, or bringing treats like chocolate & Christmas themed activities.

There are several glaring things wrong with this picture, in my eyes. I know, I know, it’s “all a bit of fun” and “the kids love it” but… oh my god. I cannot wrap my head around why anyone thinks these are a good idea, even if this makes me the biggest spoilsport in the world, and some sort of grinch.

Elf on a Shelf 025
The evil elf and his little book, too. Photo taken by Michael Kappel.

Firstly, there is a tiny person in your house spying on your children?! 

I’m not sure that Georgie and Lydia would be ok with that idea. I’m definitely sure I am not. I don’t want to tell my kids that it’s ok for there to be someone watching their every move, even if it’s just a toy elf. Privacy is a really delicate issue and even as a blogging family we have many private things and moments in our lives that don’t make it online. Why I would tell my children that it’s actually a good thing for something or someone to be violating their private lives in this way is beyond me. 

Elf on a Shelf Doll
I can’t be the only one who thinks that he even looks super creepy, can I? Photo taken by Michael Kappel.

Secondly, if your children are bad, Christmas is cancelled.

Ok, so I get that people say this works. For the entirety of Christmas, your children are basically under threat. If they misbehave, uh-oh! Your sadistic little elf is going to report back to Santa and he’ll get their names on the naughty list faster than you can say “coal.” They had better behave then!

What about the other 11 months of the year? Do you really want to teach your children that being good is something they need to do in order to get rewarded with treats and presents, or should you just teach them to be good people. Being naughty at times is natural, but you should deal with it the same all year, in a consistent way, surely… You don’t use threats to manage your children’s behaviour for the rest of the year, so why is it ok in December?

Also, if they are little brats for a few days out of the month, are you really going to cancel Christmas? It’s an empty threat, surely. As soon as your kids figure that out, you lose integrity anyway.

elf on shelf print res
I’m watching you! *evil cackle* Photo taken by Carrie Tayloe.

Thirdly, why are the elves allowed to be bad, but your children have to be angelic?

This doesn’t even make any sense… these elves are not leading by good example! They play pranks, tattle tales, and are often out-and-out naughty. Bah.

Elf on a Shelf Misbehaving
Because playing with knives is OK now, apparently. Photo taken by Michael Kappel.

Fourthly, it’s become about oneupmanship between parents.

It’s all a bit keeping up with the Joneses these days. Instagram, twitter and Facebook is going to be full of photos of elves doing weird and supposedly wonderful things for the next four weeks and it is going to drive me mad. As the month goes on, the antics of these damn elves get more & more ridiculous and they even sometimes bring expensive gifts for children, or play increasingly stupid and extravagant practical jokes. 

You do get the feeling it becomes less about entertaining children and more about beating everyone else in some sort of crazy elf competition.

2012 Elf on the Shelf - Snowy
Oh look, he’s stealing food. How CHARMING! Photo taken by Mark Baylor.


…this is just one bloggers opinion, and as this is my blog it’s the perfect place to share it! I find the whole thing wildly inappropriate, blatantly creepy, and pretty much stupid. But if you like it, good for you… I guess. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions on a subject.

For now, I am going to sit on my hands when I see the photos, mute the hashtags, and do my best to ignore this crazy phenomenon for the rest of the month… and hope that people get bored of it quickly.

Hot Girl Pick-Up
Let’s finish this up with him staring at a skinny blonde’s legs. Just because that seems right up the little creep’s alley. Photo taken by Southern Sharing.

P.S. Yes, I’m one of those horrible mummies that won’t be letting their child go trick-or-treating, as well.

54 thoughts on “Why we’re saying “Hell, No!” to Elf on the Shelf

  1. Fifthly, if you spend the first formative years of your children’s lives creating this elaborate and manipulative hoax, once they find out that Santa et al is not real, the one thing they will have learned is that you are not to be trusted and its ok to lie to people who love you.

    1. Very true! There are Christmas white lies that last one day, and then there is a month long elaborate hoax, with props! How confusing.

  2. Well said! I am baffled as to why anyone would allow an elf to do naughty things in an effort to discourage their children from… doing naughty things. It also makes Santa look weak. In my day, Santa knew everything and didn’t have to send little elf minions to spy for him. Marketing crap, indeed.

    1. Thank you! It’s completely nonsensical, isn’t it?!

      I agree with you, Santa should be all knowing – elves are for making toys, not for spying!

  3. Yep! I think I feel more comfortable with something like ‘the kindness elves’ I saw on the imagination tree blog. That little elf on the shelf gives me the heeby geebys!!

    1. The kindness elves are so much better!

      You would think they’d at least make it look friendly instead of weirdly super creepy, wouldn’t you? I shudder a bit when I look at his face.

  4. I read a book called Santa’s Little Helper (horror story) a few weeks back based on the Elf on the Shelf and he was trying to kill children. OMG it creeped me out no end, I will never have one in my house.

    1. Eek! Maybe I should track that down and read it myself, but then again I’d probably have nightmares. They are so creepy they make my skin crawl!

  5. Completely agree. I get that parents want to create magic on the run up to Christmas, but I feel it’s done more for the adults than the kids. There won’t be one in our house.

    1. Thanks for commenting, I’m so glad people agree with me, I was beginning to think the entire world was being taken over by sadistic little elves!

      It does feel very much about getting the funniest photo to post online rather than just amusing the kids.

    1. Haha! It is quite a daunting thought, 24 nights worth of different engaging ideas. I think I’d lose steam after a week, or just forget about it completely!

  6. It’s crazy! It hasn’t a lot to do with Christmas and seems a total time waste as well as a pack of lies. I would rather spend time doing fun things with the kids making Christmas cards and decorations instead! My kids also get very unsettled by changes in the school routines and they get over-excited with knock-on effects on their behavior so they would get in trouble right away! I noticed you mentioned trick or treating – my kids don’t do trick or treating either as I have multiple issues with it! We don’t celebrate Halloween and the idea of knocking on the doors of complete strangers threatening them with a trick if they don’t give you candies seems like going begging with menaces – why should strangers be obliged to give kids stuff? not to mention that some old people will be frightened by it. We also warn kids not to talk to strangers and this goes right against it! I don’t like it one little bit.

    1. I agree that it’s a time waster and nothing to do with Christmas, really. It’s all very commercial and weird! I’ve been enjoying doing crafts with the kids and I would much rather spend my time with them rather than messing about with a tiny toy elf.

    1. Thanks for the comment, I’m so glad people are agreeing, it felt a bit like the elves were taken over! (run for the hills!)

  7. Haha! Brilliant post! We’re actually doing EOTS this year, but I’m too damn lazy to set him up on mini Elf Adventures each night (and agree that he shouldn’t be doing naughty things if he’s supposed to be a ‘behaviour barometer’). He gets put in one place at night, and he stays there until the following evening. My girls love him, so it works for us, but I totally agree it can be taken WAAAAAY too far, and into the creepy zone!!!!

    1. Thanks! Staying in one place overnight is definitely much better than finding him stealing the silverware in the morning πŸ˜‰

      It definitely gets out of hand with some people!

  8. Thank goodness…. some common sense ! I’m getting fed up of all of this stuff we are adopting from America and quite frankly all of it is about spending money….. with blogs and instagram Christmas seems to be turning into some massive competition amongst parents…. people started doing christmas eve baskets, massive book or toy advents where you wrap something for every day…. because of course Christmas day full of excess just isn’t enough. I agree with every word you said, Christmas isn’t just about spending stupid amounts of money on loads of stuff our kids don’t really need…. and the whole concept of the Elf is horrible, we need to be teaching our children all year round why it is important to behave and not just relate it to gifts and presents or being spyed on. The first real Black Friday just showed how greedy people can be… punching each other for the sake of 20% off a TV. Seriously, why are we taking the worst examples of American society and adopting them here. There is more to life than spending money….. especially on crap that nobody needs.

    1. Haha! There is a lot of Christmas commercialism getting out of hand, especially online with things people trying to have the prettiest photos on pinterest and instagram. It seems very competitive and that is not what Christmas is about.

      I have to admit we do a Christmas Eve box but we don’t buy anything specifically for it, just normal things like new hairbrushes that they need anyway, or the edible treats they get at Christmas anyway – just making it a bit more special by collecting all their new bits together at once to make the day a bit fun. We’ve done a book advent this year as well because they are bookworms – I usually pick up a book or two a week but I hoarded them for a month instead and got the entire lot at the charity shops for less than a fiver altogether! Basically we tend to stick to stuff we’d be getting anyway, and just dressing it up as special – we can’t afford to spend loads anyway!

  9. I am still stuck on the fact you said oh my god at the top lol. Because that is the point for me. I am not religious but Christmas is supposed to be about the birth of Christ – and ;et’s be honest God is watching everyone all the time anyway πŸ˜‰

    I don’t know how people have the time and energy this is a busy enough time of year as it is!

    1. Lol! It’s very weird for me to use even mild swear words or phrases online, I’m usually so well behaved… πŸ˜‰

      They do seem to take up a lot of time. I’d rather use that time on something more worthwhile, I have a huge to-do list as it is!

  10. I love it! It’s one of those things that if you start, you are doing it for good. I don’t make it do anything naughty (I missed that memo). But I guess if you are on the hate side of this marmite tale, then the fact that it’s daily and bloggers do capture everything they do…I can see why it would grate on you. Only 24 more days of it…this year! πŸ˜‰ x

    1. Nooooooo! I am glad yours doesn’t misbehave though, that whole side of thing completely baffles me.

      24 days left, oh no! πŸ˜‰

  11. I’m not a fan of Elf on the Shelf either. I think like with anything people are quick to jump on the bangwagon. I just don’t have enough time in my life! x

    1. Like I said in my post, it’s seems to have become a little bit about keeping up with the Joneses – just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean you should! I hate the little creeps, and like you have better things to do with my time!

      Thanks for commenting and sharing πŸ™‚

  12. Nope. No elf here, either!

    My 8 year old is funny about stuff like this… I think it would give him nightmares if he were to believe an elf was getting up to all this mischief. And those photos where flour and stuff is thrown all over the kitchen etc. Seriously? It’s okay for an elf to be naughty but not the kids?

    Nope. I will resort to phoning Santa eleventy billion times in December and resorting to good old bribery. It’s worked all these years so far πŸ™‚

    1. I think one of these would give my little girl Georgie nightmares as well to be honest. She gets unnerved by scary things – she woke up crying after we went to a kids halloween event!

      The photos where the elves are making a mess seem nonsensical to me too.

  13. I started doing Elf on the shelf a few years ago but he doesn’t misbehave. He brings Christmas crafts, Christmas books and movies etc for us to enjoy as a family and he helps with the countdown to Christmas Day itself here. x

    1. Bringing Christmas crafts and stuff is quite fun, if you take away the spying, naughtiness, and the behaviour monitoring and so on. I think I’ll stick to having a stash of activities for us to do though πŸ˜‰

  14. I started doing elf on the shelf last year. Ours doesn’t do naughty things, ours brings Christmas related craft ideas and likes to make 7yo laugh in the morning. She has never wondered why the elf can do something she isn’t allowed to, she accepts it’s a little bit of the Christmas magic. For us it’s a great countdown to the big day itself.

    1. The issues I have are with the creepiness, privacy side of things & behavioural stuff. The nice elves that bring fun things to do aren’t so bad, although still not something I would personally do. It does bug me when they’re ill and when people post overly posed photos all the time though – when it’s clearly more about winning the “wittiest elf photo” competition each day!

      Thanks for commenting, it’s great to hear everyone’s opinions and why they choose to have an elf if they do πŸ™‚

  15. Totally agree!! My son is only 5 months old so it’s irrelevant for us this year anyway but the elf totally freaks me out and I agree with what you’ve said about encouraging good behaviour and morals all year and about someone spying on the kids!xx

    1. Yay! I’m so pleased so many people are saying they agree. It is freaky and all the stuff I mentioned in the post really concerns me, I hate the whole threatening aspect of it.

  16. My daughter is 8 and we have had an elf come to stay for December since she was 3, so I think we were a little earlier to the party than most in the UK. Anyway, we don’t have one of those creepy looking elves…ours is a tatty teddy dressed as an elf and is very worn and cuddly now! In the letter from Santa he always asks my daughter to keep an eye on the elf, not the other way around. basically he says he is too busy to keep track of all the young elves in December so he trusts the good children to look after them. This has the added bonus of making her believe she has to be pretty good all year for her to have an elf visitor. I don’t go in for posting photos of what he does. he doesn’t really do much…brings her an advent calendar on his arrival, and leaves new pjs and a xmas film etc on his departure. he did once turn our milk green though πŸ˜‰ For us, it is a way of keeping the Christmas magic alive a little bit longer. She is in Year 4 and there are a handful of children starting with the ‘Santa is really your mum and dad’ rumours. She thinks they are utterly ridiculous thankfully and maintains that they just won’t be able to hear the bell from a reindeer that the elf left her last year. I do understand your opinion, however, just wanted to point out that it is not always a consumerist approach…we have used the same Β£7.99 elf for 6 christmases now and don’t really spend anything that we wouldn’t have spent anyway (eg. advent calendar) x

  17. I’ve not done elf on the shelf. And I don’t think I’d do it because of the expense but next year it’s my turn for the Christmas eve box so I’m going to get a little elf and give them a poorly arm or leg and ask the kids to look after him/her then on Christmas eve the elf goes back to the north pole. Then they get their boxes as a thank you.

  18. We do elf on the shelf, it’s as much for me as it is the kids. I love surprising them, playing with their toys and making them laugh all year round, it’s just that in December these activities get a festive feel to them.
    I don’t enter into one up man ship, I do it for our family and it only makes it onto the blog because I’m a blogger who blogs about the things, and adventures, we as a family, get up to.
    It’s like all things in life, everyone is entitled to their own opinions, think how boring life would be if we all liked the same stuff!

  19. yours in an interesting side to this that I hadn’t thought of. Its a tradition that I wasn’t familiar with so never took up. I guess if you have fun with it, it could be a change to the advent calendar. Which incidentally I don’t do as I hate all the Chocolate ones and think that they have gone way off track!

  20. A couple of years ago I started making our own elf because I didn’t want to pay the stupid price for the creepy looking one. I didn’t get it finished in time for December 1st so gave up on the idea all together. Looking back I’m so pleased I decided against it because I know that if I had started it, I’d have to do it every year and it would just end up to be more added pressure in a time when we have so much to do already!
    I also worried that I’d forget most nights to move the flipping thing round the house and I’d cause more disappointment than joy with my rubbish memory!!

    1. They do seem like a lot of work, don’t they! I have WAY too much stuff to do in December already without having to worry about stuff like this πŸ˜‰

  21. We have an Elf, in fact we now have two as Ameila the Elf has brought her brother, Elphy Elphin, this year too. I keep it low key. It’s just some fun. My daughter loves Amelia and the antics she gets up to. She couldn’t wait for her to arrive on 1st Dec and talked about it for days beforehand. We don’t go for one-up-manship with other people although I might put some of the more inspired things on my FB page. Half the time I’m too tired to wrap up my front door as some people have. I am mindful of how naughty the elves are. We don’t threaten with the cancellation of Christmas but the Elves report back good deeds to the big man. We believe in fairies so elves are an extension of that. We celebrate Yule and I’m not particularly Christmassy and the elves help remind me that the children enjoy all the magic. I love sneaking them around the house to leave in odd places and my daughter thinks they move there themselves. She was jumping in and out of her room yesterday to try and catch them out. The elves leave letters at times and it does help calm down the excitement of Christmas a bit. They also leave the christmas pjs before disappearing until the next year. I don’t do trick or treating either and I agree with you to a point about the privacy but think there are some magical memories to be had in the elves and we are a family who celebrate angels as well as unicorns and fairies and all,things magical. My elves are soft toys that are adorably cute. The official elf on the shelf is way too creepy and not at all cuddly. Ours can be taken to school and cuddled to the children’s hearts content. I think it’s all about balance and a bit of fun, not keeping up with the Joneses.

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