Blog of the Week: Elf on the Shelf – another win for Mother Guilt?

Blog_of_the_week_badgeThis week on Blog of the Week Molly from Mother’s Always Right asks us what we think of the new phenomenon ‘Elf on the Shelf’. Is it another win for Mother Guilt or is it just a bit of fun?

Here’s what Molly has to say about it. So, what do YOU think?


Elf Free Zone

I’d like to start this post with a disclaimer: I love Christmas. I like the sparkle and the glitter and the festive build-up and the sense of anticipation surrounding the main event itself. But I am not a fan of a certain craze that has swept across my Twitter, Instagram and Facebook timeline this weekend.

Elf on the Shelf is an American idea. It’s a little toy that parents purchase pre-December. Billed as a “special scout sent by Santa from the North Pole”, the elf is meant to keep an eye on kids, updating the naughty and nice list before the big day.

Often though, the elf doesn’t just stay on the shelf. He ventures out in the middle of the night to cause havoc in a corner of the house, ready to be found with much hilarity by the children the following morning. In short, it’s a way to build the sense of excitement throughout December, giving children something to look forward to each morning when they spring out of bed.

A way to improve behaviour and add a sense of fun at the same time? Surely that’s a win then? Well, no, actually. Not in my book anyway. Because, you see, from where I’m standing the Elf on the Shelf has become just another opportunity for one-up-mumship.

It’s only 2nd December, but I can already foresee Competitive Parent Syndrome rearing elfits ugly head as mums and dads try to out-do each other on social media to have the best “Elf Experience”. Who can come up with the most creative naughty elf scenario? Who can make the funniest elf scene? It’s a slippery slope, I’m telling you.

Putting one-up-mumship to one side though, this blasted elf is a constant reminder to those of us who don’t take part that we haven’t invested the time and energy on creating yet another Christmas tradition for our children. It’s not enough that my daughter has a homemade advent calendar, lovingly sourced presents and a variety of festive days out. No, I am not winning at motherhood this Christmas unless I get an elf too. And don’t forget – it’s not enough to just sit him on the shelf. I have to actually move him around every night and then take pictures of him too.

I hear stories of Elf Facebook groups and Elf Twitter profiles. In some families, I understand, the elf has his feet well and truly under the table. Apparently that’s just a way to ratchet up the fun too, because it’s not enough to give him a name. And now I’m left wondering where it will end. Will the elf have his own Klout score? Will we get “Elf Social Media Gurus” ready to offer advice to other elves who have fewer Facebook friends and Twitter followers?

I’m genuinely interested to know what you think about this. Am I being a complete Scrooge? Am I missing out on a magical family tradition that my daughter will forever hold against me when she grows up? Will I always be *that* awful mother who didn’t do the Elf on the Shelf thing?

I’d love to know what you think. Because, at the moment, I just want him to elf off.


elfWe’d love to know what you think too – love the whole elf on the shelf tradition or is it another thing that adds to the mum guilt?

If you DO love your elves – find out more about them here

And share ideas for elvish mischief here

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34 Responses to Blog of the Week: Elf on the Shelf – another win for Mother Guilt?

  1. Amy says:

    I started this tradition last year, my son is nearly 5 and was very excited when the elf returned on Sunday. However I do agree that the effort involved in making the Elf wake in the night takes planning and its hardwork to keep the shock and lye going every morning! My elf gets nights off and doesn’t always do naughty things.

    However it is worth the effort to see my innocent 5 year olds face as he really believes the magic.

  2. NettT says:

    My daughter 6 and son 4 both love their Elf which flew in from the north pole 2 years ago. We move ‘Ruby’ Elf each night and hide her in a different place but thats it, no pictures, no cheeky little scenes or twitter/facebook updates. Its just something for us as a family to enjoy, the children wake up each morning so excited to see where Ruby has landed after her quick trip back to Santa to report on our days. I prefer the elf tradition to the advent calendars etc, the children are far more excited each morning to see their little elf friend than to open their advent calendars. To them it’s like they have a direct link to Santa in their home each day and for a daughter who’s already teetering on the edge of being a non-believer this can only be a good thing!!It’s not for everyone but it’s become a lovely, innocent tradition in our family, one which I hope my children will pass down in years to come!

  3. Claire says:

    I’m doing the elf for the first time this year! I’m not aware of any of my friends doing it and i’m certainly not sharing pics on fb etc, so there is certainly no one-up-manship here! I think a lot of the time we bring this guilt on ourselves, no one is trying to make us feel guilty its only our own conscience. I work full time so I don’t have the option for lots of fun family days out over christmas so my way to make December exciting is to have the elf visit us and do lots of funny things with him! My son doesn’t get up in the morning excited about his calender any more, its the elf!! and wondering what he’s been up to last night

  4. I’m with you here, love Christmas but can’t be doing with the nonsense that has started to appear. I’ve always told my children that Santa sends the Robins to keep an eye out for them, so much more effective than an elf. Have had days in the summer when the children would run excitedly into the house because “Santa’s Robin” was watching them dig the borders…..
    He watches all year

  5. Elfin says:

    All elves are different so each one suit their family – I know some elves are happy just cuddly up with the children at night and sitting about all day, while others are dreaming up mischief 24/7. Neither kind is better than the other, you just need the right elf for you! For an easy hassle free Elf idea that still bring a bit of excitement to little kids, why not get the elf to bring a new Christmas joke everyday? You can download a print out here

  6. Katie says:

    We got an elf on the shelf this year. We wanted to start a tradition that our children will do for years to come and its just a bit of christmas fun and excitement. Our elf hasnt done anything naughty as if the kids are ment to be good so is ellie the elf. Its something we do as a family not Shared on the interenet

  7. Ashleigh says:

    I think the number of parent’s who buy the elf (we don’t have one) or make their own (as one of my friends has done) and take part in this, rarely do so with the intention of outdoing anybody. Lots of people like to share the positive things that they do, with or without their children, but I think we have unrealistic assumptions of the the number of people who do so solely to prove that they’re a better parent. That’s not to say that there are not people who post to social media about their parenting triumphs with the sole intention of a) being told how wonderful they are and b) making sure that others know how poor they are in comparison, but those people are very much a minority. I think the responsibility here lies squarely with the people who are left feeling guilty and inadequate. It’s unlikely that the people you follow on social media sites are trying to make you feel bad. So maybe it’s worth looking at WHY you feel bad, where your guilt stems from (I’m not aiming this at you personally, I mean anybody who feels this way, not just about the Elf on the Shelf, but anything similar). The problem here is that you feel inferior, not that someone else is MAKING you feel inferior. The Elf on the Shelf is not a bad thing, nor is regularly baking with your child, putting on amazing craft experiences at your kitchen table on a weekday afternoon, or anything else that might make you feel the same way. These are all fantastic things. What is bad is the negative way that it makes you feel, and that is what needs tackling and dealing with, and stamping out ASAP, not the things that are making you feel this way.

  8. elfcrazydotcom says:

    All elves are different so they suit their individual families. I know some elves that just like to cuddle up with the kids at bed time and others that are dreaming up mischief 24/7. Neither elf is a better kind.

    If you are looking for an hassle free elf idea that will be excited for the kids too, why not have your elf leave a new Christmas joke every day. You can download a print out here

    Remember the best way is the one you enjoy!

  9. Lynds says:

    I’m only just learning about the whole ‘elf on a shelf’ thing & it’s not grabbing me as a tradition to start with my kids. I love Christmas & with it being my daughters 3rd Christmas (& my sons first) it’s even more magical this year for us. But behaviour being watched by elves in the run up to Christmas is something that can happen without being a ‘I’m the best mum’ competition on Facebook. I’ve been telling my daughter that the ‘elves are watching’ since her first Christmas & she thinks I regularly get phone calls from the elves for bahaviour updates. I think the fact of not seeing the elves makes it much more believable for her & I don’t feel bad for not copying the whole elf on a shelf fad, I’d rather teach my kids that u don’t have to follow the crowds & be individual. But that’s just me.x

  10. Kuldeep says:

    #elfontheshelf, sounds like fun, u don’t have to get embroiled and bogged down with social media, just enjoy it with the kids. Keep it fun and simple.

  11. Ben says:

    The idea of having some weird stuffed toy magically moving around the house is very disconcerting, reminds me of Chucky 🙂

  12. Alison says:

    I saw Elf on the shelf pop up on Facebook and though I’ll give a go, well by the 20th November all the website had sold out and realising I wasn’t paying £20, so I put it all together myself along with a letter from Santa, chocolates and reward chart, I posted on my fb page look how come to stay, well my friends went wild in the end I have sold over 30 elves in 2 weeks. My kids really enjoy coming done to see what the elves have had, not every day they do something this morning they had climbed the Christmas tree, I think it’s more about keeping the imagination of children alive, and the magic around Christmas and maybe even the bonus of well behaved chikdren.

  13. Helen Hardwick says:

    We’re doing it for the first time this year, but it’s free – my clever sister made the elf and I made up all the letters and certificates myself. The kids absolutely love it. We’ve got a parent group going on Facebook and it’s great fun to share photos and stories about our elves. We’re going to get them all together for a photoshoot at some point. I think us mums are having as much fun as the children!

    • Helen Hardwick says:

      PS I don’t buy into the whole behaviour thing really, with the charts and things, I don’t really like that aspect, but we have a santa postbox and the children put letters and drawings in there telling Santa what the elf has been doing, they also love opening the box in the morning to find letters and tiny gifts back. It’s lovely, they’ll be all grown up soon, let’s have some fun while they’re little.

  14. Like most of life you can pick and mix the bits you like and don’t like. I think reading anything more into it then mums and dads having a bit of light hearted fun is a step too far though, you might just be projecting a tiny bit there. if it suits go for it, if not don’t .
    I am in my third year and a tiny bit tired of the little fella but my son is growing fast he won’t be interested for long either and it has added a lot of fun to advent.

  15. CatM says:

    Aww c’mon it’s just a bit of fun, it doesn’t have to be a competition to out do each other, and it won’t be a competition as long as you don’t want it to be and don’t make it a competition. And not making something into a competition is easy done, just accept the fact that there will always be other parents out there with worse and better “elf mischief” ideas than you and enjoy your own regardless because it makes your little one smile, and that’s all that matters.

  16. C says:

    I totally agree… I’d love to get the elf, but my daughter is too young to appreciate it so it will be a year or two…. but now part of me wonders if I’ll ever be able to live up to this…

    A mum that I am friends with, albeit mainly over FB, has been posting the ‘elf fun and frolics’ along with photos of her toilet papered immaculately decorated tree, perfectly turned out designer clad children and wonderful home. Its not enough to tell us how perfect her life is as a self employed mum of four who stll has time to bake, give her kids every possible life experience and still keep a happy husband and perfect home, but we now have to suffer even more at Christmas…

    (Maybe a little bit of green eyed monster coming out.. Anthea Turner or Kirsty Allsop I am not!)

    • Krystal says:

      Hiya just want to see things arent always what they seem, maybe shes doing it to make herself feel better?? I don’t post everything over facebook because to be honest nobody cares if I have the perfect job or family lol the people who really do care about me know how I am and my life without it all being online chin up xx

  17. Jane B says:

    We’re enjoying putting all the characters on our nativity advent calendar, after all, isn’t the birth of Jesus the reason for the season.
    Let’s stop inflicting pressure on each other, love and time are the most important gifts we can give our children.

    • estoin8 says:

      Amen to that. Elf on a shelf? How utterly ridiculous. My children open their nativity advent calendar every morning and we talk about how what is inside (a bible verse) fits into the nativity story. And then I let them have a chocolate one afterwards. It’s bad enough trying to maintain the lies about Father Christmas to be honest. People truly seem to have lost sight of what Christmas is all about. No, it’s not about seeing the delight on children’s faces as the vast plastic pile mounts up, and it’s not about how much food you can consume. It’s about celebrating the birth of Jesus. End of. (and before you all abuse me, yes I do buy my children presents etc I’m not that mean, but I do not let it rule the festive season) And we sing Happy Birthday to Jesus on Christmas Day.

    • Elena says:

      Totally agree.

  18. Bec says:

    Whatever happened to ‘Black Pete’ who used to be up the chimney listening to see if the kids were being good or bad and reporting back to Santa?

    Why are some of the elves on the shelves naughty? isn’t that letting kids think its ok to be a bit mischevious along with the elf?

  19. Abby says:

    Each to their own I say. But I certainly won’t be doing it here. And I don’t feel guilty at all. What a mean mother I am 🙂

  20. Flo says:

    It makes me grumpy, I love my kids and we’ve got a Santa van advent calendar that gets chocolate delivered each evening (mainly as at 1 & 3 filling the van is an invitation for over eating chocolate), but the elf on the shelf seems to be just another trend designed to spend more money to give our kids “the best Christmas experience” I had some great Christmases, none of which involved an elf that encouraged me to be naughty, sorry, mischievous. And none of my mum friends do it so I’m not bitter about it being part of the myth of the perfect mum. Still if you do it in your own home without gloating to everyone you know about it cool, live and let live!

  21. stacy says:

    not a chance of me ever doing the elf on the shelf for a few reasons, main one being the fact i like to pick up bits and pieces as surprises through december from ME to the family such as pantomines and meals which is a tradition, novelty jammies and t shirts etc and movie nights, the biggest excitment is me bringing the magic alive with the pre xmas day stuff and then obviously santa himself brings the whole magical experiance of the gifts etc on xmas morning,

  22. chattykathy says:

    Surely we should encourage ‘good’ behaviour with our children for its own sake, not so that they will get a load of presents. Will any of the parents doing this ‘Elf’ malarkey or any ‘Santa won’t come’ or any other idle threats, actually withhold presents if their off spring don’t behave well? If not, don’t do it! Create your own family traditions, be unique and most of all enjoy being together at Christmas time

  23. My son is now 20.When he was 3 I told him if he was a good boy Santa’s elves would leave him a chocolate on the tree to find in the morning. He loved looking for this every day. When he was 4 I became a childminder and carried on the fun with the children I mind. The children look forward to counting the chocs to see if everyone was good the day before! As new children have come along the one’s who remember from the previous year tell them all about it. I don’t have to say a thing. No mischief just lots of fun and yes I do start buying chocs as soon as they appear in the shops.

  24. Agreed, as if us Mums don’t have enough to contend with at Christmas time! Isn’t the elf supposed to be mischevious too, so we tell our children to be good, but the elf can cause trouble – there is something wrong here!

  25. ManonR says:

    No elf in our house. I wouldn’t get my daughter out of the door in time for school is one major reason. The other, we have lovely traditions, we don’t need another one. We are Germans so we have traditions none of my daughter’s friend have. This doesn’t cause issues so if one if them would have an elf, I haven’t heard of any, I would say, good for you but not for me.

  26. HelenE says:

    you know what? this is a much better idea takes as much effort as just thinking of something nice to do for someone else, kind of more what Christmas should be about IMO. And doesn’t need as much effort. Just do the everyday stuff you do with your kids with someone else in my mind.

  27. Michelle says:

    I began this tradition last year for my (now) 5 year old. She loves it and it was worth the effort when I saw her face each morning after the elf (Tumbleflump) had done something naughty or left her something nice to do for the day. She really enjoyed and and has asked for him throughout the year. He is back this year and she is loving it again! He even brought along another, smaller elf called Buttons in for her one year old sister so that they can be left different things and they can play with their elves! It’s a brilliant tradition.

  28. Anna says:

    We love doing the whole elf on the shelf thing. I got one from http://www.theelfcompany and he is really cute! My son carries him round in the rucksack sack that he came in every day and he has been going into school with him as well where he is equally loved. I guess it’s like marmite, you either love the idea or hate it and we love it! 😉 x

  29. Samantha says:

    I’m doing it for the first time after a friend left her on our doorstep. I’m not great at it!! She forgot to move on the second night – yep second night!! There’s mother guilt if you do, mother guilt if you don’t!

    We have a damn lazy elf, she just sits in a new spot ‘most’ nights. No photos, no crazy scenes, just moved, if she’s lucky. The kids are excited, that’s all that matters right…

  30. Oh my God the timing! Guess what? I literally just sat down to write a bit of a rant about the Christmas overdrive that send me nuts each year and I was just pootling around on le Twitter when I came across your post! No you are not a scrooge. I’m sorry but the whole thing has become ridiculous. When did Christmas get this frickin complicated?!

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