Now, a year later, people are still commenting on my hastily scribbled thoughts. Some of the discussions have veered way off track; for example, I think a couple folks are currently debating whether or not Christ actually existed (not touching that one with a ten-foot-pole, by the way!)
I hope everyone realizes that, even though I personally don't like Elf on the Shelf, I'm not condemning anyone who does. If your family thinks it's fun, then by all means roll with it. It's not for us, but that doesn't make it wrong. (I hope that would be self-evident, but I have been accused more than once of trying to ruin everyone else's fun - nope, just telling the world why I'm personally creeped out).
One more thing - I'm well aware that some of my points contradict one another. That doesn't make them any less true. I'm not trying to construct any type of logical argument against using Elf on the Shelf; I'm just sharing my own personal feelings about it. And, naturally, feelings aren't aways going to make sense. That's just life!
It's incredibly creepy. If Elf on the Shelf had been around when I was a kid, I would have spent the entire month of December on tenterhooks, terrified that the scary-looking elf thing was waiting for me around every corner.
It's deceitful. I hate lying to Trey so much that I can barely bring myself to do the whole "Santa" thing. So I'm certainly not going to trick him into believing that a seemingly inanimate object is actually monitoring his behavior by day, then flying back to the North Pole for a status meeting with Santa by night.
It confuses the whole "good behavior/bad behavior" issue. Bad behavior is bad because it's, well, bad - not because it might cost you a toy on Christmas morning. And I want Trey to be good not so he can earn brownie points with Santa, but because it's the right thing to do. Elf on the Shelf completely bypasses those messages, instead teaching kids that the only reason to be good is to earn a reward (or avoid punishment).
It's mean. Do we really need to hold the consequences of misbehavior over our kids' heads every minute of the day - even when they're being perfectly lovely? As a child, I would have literally lost sleep obsessing over every move I made, and the Elf's possible interpretations, for the entire Advent season.
It doesn't make sense. Most children young enough to believe in Santa are also too young to care what happens in a month's time. Little kids live in the now. The promise of presents-yet-to-come is too murky a concept to inspire good behavior. Slightly older kids may be more responsive to the whole Naughty List/Nice List story, but it's still a much more abstract idea than an immediate time-out, loss of privileges, or stern lecture from mom.
It diminishes parental authority. To be blunt: Santa's not the boss of Trey; I am. That means it's my job to teach him right from wrong, without invoking the name of some bearded boogeyman who lives thousands of miles away. Besides, if the only way I can control Trey is to threaten him with the Naughty List, how am I going to make him behave in April?
It's an empty threat. Let's face it: no parents in the world are actually going to cancel Christmas morning, no matter how banshee-like their children's behavior has been during the previous month. Young kids won't understand the hypocrisy any better than they understood the entire Elf on the Shelf experience (in other words, not very well). But those old enough to grasp the disconnect between Advent's promises of coal and Christmas morning's glut of gifts will learn a potent lesson about the consequences of bad behavior - albeit, probably not the one their parents had hoped for.
Do you hate Elf on the Shelf, too? Tell me why (I'm sure I missed something key).
Do you love Elf on the Shelf? Tell me why I'm wrong!