Dear Crabby, What Do You Think About Elf on a Shelf?

Dear Crabby,

My Facebook feed is being flooded with images of friends’ Elf on the Shelf antics. Do you think this is a great holiday tradition or just more trouble than it’s worth?

Kris Claus

Dear Kris Claus,

Sadly, I know exactly what you are talking about. And if you can believe it that little rascal has been around for 13 years. Now, I’m sure the idea behind it all started out innocently enough, but now it seems to be all about selling more Elves (and everything that goes with them).

Read: Dear Crabby, Any Suggestions on Holiday Family Traditions to Try?

For those who have been living under a rock, you may find yourself asking, ‘Dear Crabby, what IS Elf on a Shelf?’ So, let me take a moment to educate you. It starts by ‘adopting’ your chosen elf and giving him or her a ridiculous name like Buddy McJingles or Tammy Twinkletoes. Once in your home, your elf will act as Santa’s ‘scout’ who reports back to the big guy whether or not your child has been good. Look. I know it’s a busy time of year for Santa, but he’s been able to handle this operation for centuries, so why does he need extra help now? Back when I was a kid, the threat of landing on Santa’s naughty list was all the incentive my siblings and I needed to behave. We didn’t need some silly stand-in to tattle on us. Santa somehow knew what we were up to and that was good enough for us. Did you know that in spite of its name, that your Elf doesn’t have to stay on shelf? Nope. In fact, you’re supposed to keep moving Elfie around your house to keep your kids on their best behavior and leave small gifts to reward your child for being good. Not only does that sound a little creepy, but it also sounds like a lot of work to me. My parents would have never stood for that nonsense. Now, I know you must be asking, ‘How is this creepier than Santa seeing you when you’re sleeping?’ And the answer is easy: Santa isn’t in the room, staring at you from a shelf. If you’re bound and determined to brainwash your kids with this tradition, I’d suggest visiting that Pinterest thingy where you’ll find loads of ideas for different ways Frosty Snowflakes can keep an eye on little Johnny and Susie.

If you’d like to do something fun with your kids, there is another elf alternative—the Kindness Elf. First of all, these elves are actually cute. Instead of reporting back any shenanigans to Santa, these guys are designed to place the focus on positive, character-building activities for kids in the hopes they display less of an entitlement attitude. What a concept. Once you have your elf, he or she will leave an Act of Kindness suggestion for your child to find. Something like bake cookies for a neighbor, of which I would happily accept. For future reference, chocolate chip cookies are my favorite. Once the Act of Kindness is completed, The Kindness Elves leave the children a little postcard congratulating them on their act. If no act of Elf-ness strikes your fancy, I do have a final suggestion. Wrap some empty boxes in holiday paper and when your child acts up, throw one in the fireplace. Not only will you save time and money, your kid will also get the message that being good for goodness sake is serious business.

Hope that helps and don’t forget the cookies!

Dear Crabby

About Dear Crabby

Stuck in a rut? Need some biased advice from a crabby old baby-boomer? Read regularly by thousands and loved by some, Dear Crabby answers questions weekly to life's challenges. Send him a note at

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