Our positive spin on the Elf on the Shelf.
At first glance, you may roll your eyes and think, “Ugh, another thing I have to worry about, it’s just a silly Christmas tradition, why do I have to change it?”
Well, I thought the same was as you did. My kids mentioned Elf on the Shelf because a friend at school had one at home. I always thought I’d never be an Elf on the Shelf person, because I didn’t want to commit to the “extra work.” In the end, it wasn’t the “extra work” that I didn’t want, it was the messaging that didn’t resonate with my parenting style.
Now, I’m not expert in child psychology, I just know what works for my kids and their big feelings and thanks to resources like Dr. Becky, I now understand that having a little elf tattle on your kids every night is not helpful for their emotional security. So instead, I’m putting a bit of a positive spin on it, in the best way I know how!
The First Night with the Elf on the Shelf
Since I previously spoke of Elf on the Shelf as a little elf who “tattles” on kids and tells Santa each night if you’ve been bad or good, I wanted to set the record straight with my kids, so they’d know what he meant moving forward. Thus, after we put the kids down to sleep with their little elves, I printed out a letter that explained that the elf doesn’t report back if you’ve been naughty or nice, he reports back only the GOOD things you’ve done. I reiterated that they are good kids and that big feelings are hard and sometimes you’re naughty because those feelings scare you.
When they woke up in the morning, I could see the shift in their bodies – they were so excited to be “off the hook” (haha!) but also, they loved hearing positive things about themselves in the letter. Then I told them that the Elf would come back each morning and bring little notes from Santa. My plan is to commit to writing one little line per kid that celebrates one of their wins from that day.
For example, “Luca, you made 5 baskets in basketball practice today, great job!” or “Roma, you learned how to write your name in school today, that’s amazing!” Or, it can be more behavior based, like “Luca, I noticed you were extra gentle with the twins today, I’m proud of you.” For me, it’ll be a bit of a gratitude practice with my kids, focusing more on what makes them incredible little humans, instead of commiserating about how tough they can be (which is an easy trap to fall into!)
You can view the letter as a Google doc here, so you can copy and paste yourself and print it out (or hand write it, if you’re extra!)
Some of your Elf on the Shelf Ideas
After polling my audience on Instagram, I found out that many of you were also using Elf on the Shelf, but in different ways! Here are some of the positive ways you bring the Elf on the Shelf into your homes for holiday cheer:
“I’ve always told the kids our elf just comes to visit and bring joy before christmas, that she helps to spread the Christmas spirit. We also refer to her as a kindness elf sometimes. Sometimes she will leave the kids little “Christmas quests” with notes asking them to do certain acts of kindness, like baking for the neighbors, donating some of their toys to kids in need, donating food to a food pantry, etc. The kids love helping her spread Christmas kindness! Although sometimes she just does silly things like wrap our Christmas tree in toilet paper 😝 to make us smile. Love your spin on the elf, hope you have lots of fun and can’t wait to see what you do with it!”
“Our elf doesn’t tell Santa anything. He just comes to hang out with us😅 He moves every night when the kids are sleeping and they love waking up to his silliness. If we are gone for most of the day the kids like telling him their favorite parts of the day. The biggest thing for my kids is him moving around doing something new every day 🤷🏼♀️”
“We do Leffy the Elf from the Jellycat book- super cute book with a good message. He is our kindness elf and we talk about kind things we can do for each other. Sometimes Leffy will bring a fun Christmas book or special activities and not necessarily something every day. The kids can also touch Leffy and play with him if they want. He also isn’t a tattle elf. I love incorporating about celebrating more of their wins ❤️”
“Hi! I love this!! I’ve done the elf for a few years now, I tell them ‘Rosie’ likes to tell Santa all of the fun things we do to get ready for Christmas. The kids love that. This is the second year in a row i have ordered @sparkleofwhimsy kits. She puts together simple, but fun things for the kids to do each day- brought by the elf. Anyways, all that to say… my oldest son really reacts well to positive reinforcement. So I am definitely going to have our elf bring notes similar to yours! Thanks for the idea!”