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11 Reasons Why Elf on the Shelf is Considered Evil By Some

Is Elf on the Shelf just an annoying marketing ploy designed to generate millions in sales at the expense of parents? After all, it leaves many parents exhausted trying to come up with new ideas, and feeling guilty if they forget. So are Elf on the Shelf evil?

No, the Elf on the Shelf is not evil. It’s a fun and festive tradition for children during the holidays. Consider your parenting style and decide if it aligns with the concept. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide if the plusses outweigh any concerns.

In this comprehensive blog post, we will delve into various aspects of the Elf on the Shelf phenomenon to provide you with valuable insights and perspectives.

We’ll explore how incorporating these mischievous elves into your holiday celebrations can foster creativity through belief in magic while also encouraging critical thinking skills in children. Additionally, we’ll discuss using Elf on the Shelf as a behavior management tool by examining its pros and cons, as well as suggesting alternatives to relying solely on elf-based discipline.

Moreover, our exploration will cover ways to incorporate positive messages into your family’s tradition by sharing examples from different families and offering tips for creating your own meaningful version.

Furthermore, we’ll address adapting Elf on the Shelf to reflect cultural diversity and values by selecting culturally representative elves and crafting inclusive stories around them.

So join us as we take an in-depth look at this fascinating topic: Are Elf on the Shelf evil?

First let’s look at the . . . 

11 Reasons Why Elf on the Shelf is Considered Evil By Some

1. Intrusion of Privacy

Some parents dislike Elf on the Shelf because they feel it intrudes on their family’s privacy. They find the idea of a doll watching their every move and reporting back to Santa to be invasive and unsettling.

2. Added Stress and Pressure

Elf on the Shelf can add unnecessary stress and pressure for parents who feel obligated to come up with creative and elaborate ideas every night. It can become a time-consuming and exhausting task, adding to the already busy holiday season.

3. Unattainable Expectations

Many parents feel that Elf on the Shelf sets unrealistic expectations for children’s behavior during the holiday season. They worry that it places too much emphasis on being “good” to receive gifts from Santa, rather than fostering genuine kindness and generosity.

4. Commercialization of Christmas

Some parents believe that Elf on the Shelf contributes to the commercialization of Christmas by turning it into a marketing opportunity. They feel that the focus should be on the real meaning of Christmas rather than a product.

5. Reinforcement of Surveillance Culture

Elf on the Shelf can reinforce a culture of surveillance, where children may feel constantly monitored and judged. This can detract from the idea of fostering trust and open communication within the family.

After all, the Elf of the Shelf is supposed to report back nightly to Santa about both good and bad behavior.

6. Sleep Disruptions

Parents often find themselves staying up late to strategically move the elf, which can disrupt their own sleep patterns. This added exhaustion can take away from the joy of the holiday season.

7. Potential for Misbehavior

Some children may see the mischievous antics of the elf as permission to engage in similar misbehavior. This can create challenges for parents in maintaining discipline and reinforcing positive behavior.

8. Cultural and Religious Sensitivities

Elf on the Shelf’s association with Christmas may not align with the cultural or religious beliefs of all families. Some parents may feel uncomfortable incorporating a Christmas-centric tradition into their household. A belief in Santa Claus, the North Pole, etc is central to supporting the ideas behind the Elf on the Shelf idea.

9. Lack of Inclusivity

Elf on the Shelf’s focus on Christmas may exclude families who celebrate other holidays during the winter season. This can leave some children feeling left out or less valued in the festive atmosphere.

10. Cost and Consumerism

Parents may dislike Elf on the Shelf due to the additional cost associated with purchasing the elf and its accompanying accessories. They may also see it as another example of consumerism, where unnecessary products are marketed to parents.

11. Dislike of Lying to Children

Some parents don’t like to lie to their kids, even if it’s so-called traditions like Christmas, Santa, the Tooth Fairy, etc.

So for a parent that already aligns with that philosophy (I feel sorry for their kids having such a humorless, bore of a parent, lol), they aren’t exactly looking for a new way to lie to their kids about Elf on the Shelf being “real”.

Additional Table of Contents:

The Impact of Elf on the Shelf on Children’s Beliefs

Is Elf on the Shelf promoting gullibility or fostering creativity in children? Psychology Today suggests that believing in magical beings like elves can actually enhance imagination and curiosity in young minds.

Fostering Creativity Through Belief in Magic

Encouraging a belief in magic can lead to increased imaginative play, which has been linked with improved cognitive development, according to Parents Magazine.

Encouraging Critical Thinking Skills

However, it is important to balance creative thinking with skepticism and critical thinking skills, as NPR warns that Elf on the Shelf may inadvertently teach children to accept surveillance and blind obedience.

Elf on the Shelf: A Behavior Management Tool or Not?

Is using Elf on the Shelf as a behavior management tool during the holidays a good idea or not?

The Pros and Cons of Elf-Based Discipline

  • Pro: Elf on the Shelf encourages good behavior in children by promising rewards from Santa.
  • Con: It may lead to kids behaving only for the sake of gifts, rather than understanding the importance of good behavior.

Alternatives to Elf-Based Discipline

If you’re worried about relying solely on your elf for discipline, try incorporating other strategies like positive reinforcement or setting clear expectations for appropriate behavior during the holidays.

Check out these discipline techniques without yelling or spanking for more ideas:

1. Positive Behavior Jar

The Positive Behavior Jar is a fun and interactive alternative to Elf on the Shelf.

Instead of relying on a doll, this approach involves a jar filled with small rewards or privileges. Whenever a child displays positive behavior or accomplishes a specific goal, they can choose a reward from the jar. This system promotes self-motivation and allows children to directly benefit from their own actions.

2. Responsibility Chart

A Responsibility Chart is a visual tool that helps children track and develop good habits. It can include tasks such as completing chores, homework, or practicing good manners. Children earn points or stickers for each task completed, and when they reach a certain number, they can receive a reward or special privilege.

This approach encourages a sense of responsibility and helps children develop a routine.

3. Behavior Bucks System

The Behavior Bucks System is a creative way to encourage positive behavior.

Children can earn “behavior bucks” for tasks like following instructions, demonstrating kindness, or completing responsibilities. These bucks can be collected and exchanged for rewards or privileges, such as choosing a family activity, extra screen time, or a special treat.

4. Positive Reinforcement Calendar

A Positive Reinforcement Calendar is a visual tool that allows children to track their progress and receive positive reinforcement. Each day, children can mark their achievements or acts of kindness on the calendar. Parents can offer praise and encouragement for these actions, fostering a sense of accomplishment and reinforcing positive behavior over time.

5. Family Appreciation Jar

The Family Appreciation Jar promotes gratitude and positive interactions within the family.

Instead of focusing on individual behavior, family members can write notes expressing appreciation for one another and place them in a jar. Regularly reading and reflecting on these notes helps create a supportive and loving family environment, fostering good behavior through mutual appreciation.

Incorporating Positive Messages into Your Family’s Tradition

Despite the Elf on the Shelf controversy, families can still use it to spread kindness and teach responsibility.

  • Have the elf perform acts of goodwill to foster kindness toward others.
  • Encourage children to take responsibility for their actions with a daily “good deed” challenge from the elf.

Create your own meaningful version by brainstorming fun activities that align with your family’s values.

Adapting Elf On The Shelf To Reflect Cultural Diversity And Values

Parents from diverse backgrounds are finding ways to adapt Elf On The Shelf to better reflect their cultural values and beliefs, such as selecting a more diverse range of elf dolls or creating inclusive stories around their family’s little elf.

  • Choose culturally representative elves.
  • Create inclusive stories around your family’s little elf.

Is Elf on the Shelf Right for Your Family?

Deciding whether to embrace the Elf on the Shelf can be a polarizing topic, so it’s important to consider your family’s values and beliefs before jumping on the bandwagon.

  • Assess your values: Reflect on what matters most to your family when deciding if this Christmas tradition aligns with your holiday celebrations.
  • Respect others’ choices: Remember that every family has their own unique approach to the holidays, so it’s essential to respect differing opinions about Elf on the Shelf.
  • Consider religious affiliations: If religion plays a significant role in your family’s holiday traditions, make sure Elf on the Shelf doesn’t conflict with those beliefs.
  • Get creative: If you do decide to adopt Elf on the Shelf, have fun with it and come up with creative ways to incorporate the mischievous little elf into your daily routine.
  • Don’t feel pressured: Don’t feel like you have to participate in Elf on the Shelf just because everyone else is doing it. Do what feels right for your family.


Is Elf on the Shelf a bad idea?

Elf on the Shelf can be a fun holiday tradition, but it’s not for everyone – consider your family’s values and beliefs before starting.

Why are they banning Elf on the Shelf?

There is no widespread ban, but some parents and educators have concerns about its impact on children’s behavior and privacy. Additionally, some TikTok’ers have alluded to a ban by Walmart which is false. And a judge in Georgia issued a joke ban on Elf on the Shelf as a way to help overworked parents.

Does the Elf on the Shelf watch you?

According to the story, elves watch over young children during the day and report back to Santa at night, but this can be adapted to fit your preferences.

How do you get rid of the evil Elf on the Shelf?

If a naughty elf becomes an issue, retire it by explaining to your child why it must leave or replace it with a more positive alternative like Kindness Elves.

How does Elf on the Shelf work?

Elf on the Shelf is a popular holiday tradition that involves a small elf doll placed in different locations around the house.

The concept is that the elf is Santa’s scout and monitors the behavior of children leading up to Christmas. Each night, the elf “magically” moves to a new spot, creating the illusion that it has come to life.

In the morning the next day, children search for the scout elf to see where it ended up.

The idea is that the elf reports back to Santa about the children’s behavior, encouraging them to be on their best behavior. It adds excitement and anticipation to the holiday season as children discover the elf’s new hiding spot each day. So each night starting Thanksgiving and throughout the Christmas season it moves to different places each day.

Christmas Eve is the elf’s last night in the house. Then come Christmas Day they are gone.


Elf on the Shelf can have both positive and negative effects on children’s beliefs and behavior.

Using it as a sole behavior management tool may not be effective in the long run. However, incorporating positive messages into your family’s tradition can make this Christmas tradition more meaningful.

Ultimately, whether or not Elf on the Shelf is right for your family depends on your values and beliefs. Respect others’ choices regarding this holiday tradition while making informed decisions for your own family.

I have a collection of free printable Elf on the Shelf goodbye letters (5 seasonal and 2 final) you can download for FREE!

They are in Microsoft Word, that way you can personalize it with your elf’s name and also address them to your kids if you wish.

Use a cool font for your Elf on the Shelf goodbye note

Assuming you’ll write the letter on your computer and print it, I recommend using a sort of funky, hand-written looking font.

You may have some great ones, but there’s a ton of free ones you can download too. Since this will be during the holiday season, you could also use some holiday-themed fonts too.

Here are my favorite free fonts for Elf on the Shelf goodbye letters

(just click to download them for free from the font website):

Like most fonts you would download online, these are zip files. Just right click to expand and then drag the folder contents into your fonts folder (that for a PC; I’m not super familiar with Mac).

Image by Michelle Scott from Pixabay

Jeff Campbell