Is your Elf back? Is it your first year with an elf on a shelf? Are your children amazed and amused by the elf’s mischief or silliness? Or do you despise that imaginary new tradition?
Let's dig a little deeper into this elf on a shelf.
Historically Santa has been parent’s most used consequence during the month of December. “You best pick up your toys, or Santa won’t bring you any.” “Go put your shoes on, Santa is watch!”
But in recent years we’ve met Santa’s helper- the elf on the shelf.
The Elf only wakes up at night, can’t be touched by children, often teaches lessons and makes messes everywhere they go. The most important thing- they report straight to Santa. Ya know, since the world is so big now Santa needs a little help keeping an eye on all the Ryders, Sophias, and Pauls in the world.
If you are into the elf, you are so into it.
The elf can be leverage for your children’s behavior, and encourage them to do good deeds.
Like donate your old clothes to the less fortunate, helping their siblings and their parents during the day.
If you aren’t a fan of the elf, fear not, as teaching empathy does not require an elf (or any other behavior-reporting-to-a-higher-power-tool).
If you opt out of the elf you can use non-December related leverage. Like “If you don’t put your shoes on we can’t go play at the park.” or “Be kind to your brother, because you want him to be kind to you.”
The consistency of using the same leverage all year may be an advantage to your parenting.
To teach them about the world and the less fortunate you can do outings like making huge stacks of PB&Js, then giving them to the homeless. Or bagging up the toys you don’t enjoy anymore, washing them, and then giving them to children who would enjoy them. While washing you can use phrases like “Some children don’t have very many toys, they are going to be SO happy to play with these.” and “You are working so hard to make these toys clean for the children.”
Bonus points if your child can physically hand the bag of toys to the children, or an adult social worker, or even the thrift store worker.
Where you love the elf on the shelf or not, December is a great month for teaching your children kindness.
Go out into the community and make someone smile, bring your children and watch them smile too.
Involve your children fully, and always be reminding them the reason for the season.