Elf On The Shelf Won’t Be Happening In My Household — And Here’s Why

by Karen Belz
Karen Belz has written for sites such as Bustle, HelloGiggles, Romper, and So Yummy. She's the mom of a sassy toddler and drinks an alarming amount of Sugar-Free Red Bull in order to keep up with her.

Well before I had a child of my own,  my Instagram feed became infested with elves immediately after Thanksgiving ended.

Elf on the Shelf season had officially started, meaning that little smiling, coy plastic faces were aplenty. Each one had a name that was partially festive, yet simple in its own way. There were a lot of Bellas, Carols, and Buddys. No matter the name, each one had a glimmer of evil in its eye. December was their month, and they were going to destroy everything.

OK, maybe I’m reading too much into it. All I know is even before my daughter was born, I knew Elf on the Shelf would be an absolute no.

Yes, there’s the fear of missing out. There’s also the possibility that she might ask me why she didn’t have an elf when all of her friends did. And in time, I’ll think up a completely reasonable explanation without backing down on my decision.

Honestly, you might think that Elf on the Shelf may die out when that time comes. But it’s very unlikely. I might be a parent who’s against the tradition, but there are plenty of new moms out there who’ve been looking forward to the chance of having an elf show up and help watch their kids. Once it’s out there, it’s out there. There’s no turning back.

If you’re on the fence about whether or not to start the tradition, here’s why I’m firmly in the camp of “no, thanks.”

I consider myself to be a creative person, but being creative for 25 consecutive days is a stretch for anyone.

The whole purpose of Elf on the Shelf is as follows: An elf comes from the North Pole to watch your child. Every day the elf hides in a different location to spy on your kid. In order to keep up with the magic, parents need to hide the elf all over the house. This may be fun on days one through three, but it’s hard not to be repetitious after that. I’m a very scheduled person. Hiding an elf in the pantry, and then trying to make a point for my daughter to actually see it, is oddly stressful.

I'm against Instagram parents trying to harvest likes for their own ideas.

I really don’t mean to sound bitter, but I’m 35. That means that a lot of the people I follow happen to be parents in the Elf on the Shelf age window. I have no problem seeing when the elf first arrives from the North Pole, but I do feel like parents try to use the experience to gain a ton of likes — or worse, be seen as Elf on the Shelf influencers. That just seems to dilute the entire purpose of the elf, to begin with. He or she is supposed to be a magical buddy who helps keep your child in line since the elf reports directly to Santa.

Call me a Grinch, but it's just too much work.

I already mentioned the stress and the lack of creativity, but what about the work that these things bring? If you own an elf, you may have done the funny “Elf falls into a container of flour making cookies!” pose, or the “Elf causes mischief spilling juice everywhere!” display. But who’s cleaning up that flour and that juice? I’ll answer that for you — not the elf.

Motherhood is really difficult as-is. We’re warriors who need to deal with temper tantrums while also making sure there are clean dishes for dinner. We literally need to wipe the walls clean after our toddlers eat lunch that isn’t in pouch form. Adding an extra month of unnecessary work by also picking up after an elf is just asking for too much.

I'm afraid of what will happen if my child is actually bad.

Santa is a good way to get all kids to behave. And there’s a 99.5% chance mine would. But what if that elf happens to see my child do something terrible? Will my daughter know if presents are deducted from her pile? Will it make Christmas awkward? I’d rather be able to stand in there myself and be able to teach my child the proper way to act and the best way to be kind without Santa getting involved. That brings me to my next point.

I don't want my daughter thinking that kindness will always be rewarded with gifts.

I want her to know that kindness will often go unnoticed. It’s part of life. People who try to beg for rewards just because they’re nice to people often come off as being a little fake. True kindness should come from within. She should be polite to the people around her and helpful to her friends without expecting anything monetarily valuable in return.

Yes, I know that sometimes gimmicks work with kids. I’ve definitely bargained with my daughter before, telling her that three more big bites of dinner will earn her an ice cream cone. But Christmas is greater than that. Some of the kindest kids in the world will, unfortunately, go without on Christmas based on differing financial situations.

I know it'll get lost. Or found.

This is one of my smaller concerns, but it’s still on the list. Once you bring an elf into your home, expect it to be there for years. That is, unless it gets lost in the chaos of Christmas decor stuffed in the basement. The elf isn’t the cheapest holiday accessory in the world, so it’s something you really just want to buy once.

That said, the elf can also be found — then what? Based on Elf on the Shelf lore, the elf is supposed to make his or her way back to Santa Claus, not hang out in the basement next to the items that’ll be featured in my next yard sale. I don’t want to have to think of an explanation on the fly.

The fact that they have add-ons makes it even more of an expensive tradition.

Did you know that you can buy a St. Bernard for your elf? I’m not going to lie; the dog is very cute. And sure, it may help parents think up funnier ways to hide and move the elf. But it’s completely not important, and just another way for the company to cash in on this baffling new tradition.

Pretty soon, your house is going to be littered with more elf add-ons, and trying to find and assemble them all is going to cause more of a headache. Save yourself the time and the money, especially since you’ve got plenty of other things going on. Just tell your kids that you’re reporting back to Santa as people did back before this thing was invented in 2005.