6 Reasons Elf on the Shelf is Not for Our Family, and a few possible alternatives.

When the Elf on the Shelf came into huge popularity several years ago, I was pretty freaked out at first glance. The more I learned about him, the more disturbed I became. (To be fair, I have actually seen a few ideas that look like they’d be fun, but I can do those in other ways with my kids.) And, no, I’m not telling you I think you’re a bad person if you participate. It’s not my job to judge your choices. This post isn’t as in-depth as Jerry would like it to be, so expect a full post about Santa Claus soon. For now, I’m just sharing why the elf doesn’t work for our family.

Philippians 4:8: Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. 

1) We teach grace to our children, not works.

The elf is around to tattle to Santa and Santa keeps a list of naughty and nice kids. The elf bargains with children, telling them if they do so many good deeds, it can outweigh their bad deeds, to keep them on the “nice list.” That does not line up with scripture at all, and we don’t condone activities that don’t line up with scripture. No one is deserving of grace – it is a free gift to anyone who accepts it. Jesus has forgiven all sins, past and present, and nothing bad my kids do today will take that away. Nothing good they do today will make that grace be worth more. The naughty and nice list just isn’t for our family in any way.

2) We try to limit wastefulness.

I’m not saying everything the elf does is wasteful, but my boys have seen him pour out sugar and flour, dump out chocolate chips, make messes of kitchens, rip up wrapping paper, and other destructive things. Our kids are taught that we are not to waste things, especially food, because we need to be good stewards of what the Lord has given us.

3) He is creepy.

If you’re not with me on this one, I’m sorry, but why? He looks like a Kewpie doll who has gone rogue and either plans to do horrible things to children while they’re not looking or at least thinks about doing them…Really, he is not pleasant to look at. For me, it was fear at first sight. Yes, I know this is personal opinion, but my children had the same reaction to Mr Elf at first sight. 😉

4) “He” can cause embarrassing and unflattering situations.

My oldest son once saw a post with a teenager’s underwear on the Christmas tree, and another site showed a naked baby picture. This kind of thing is degrading to kids – my son is horrified by just the thought of his baby pictures being circulated. The thought of underwear on a tree makes no sense to his mind. Other photos have made a big deal about elf excrement. If we don’t want our kids to talk about bodily functions, why is it okay to have “Elf Poo” and other nasty things for our kids to actually eat?!

5) We nurture imagination, but do not encourage believing in pretend magic characters.

Our kids can dress up and pretend to be anyone they want to be; they know they are not really that person/creature. A magical dragon, Superman, Spiderman, Hulk, Gandalf. They know they are not really those characters. However, we do not view pretend magical characters in the same light. We don’t “do” Santa, The Easter Bunny, The Tooth Fairy, and the like. Our kids know that we buy their gifts, we hide their Easter baskets, and we purchase their teeth from them. They are not deprived, and do not feel left out. We have plenty of fun, special things that we do, and we endeavor to keep Christ the focus of Christmas.

6) We do not condone lying. At all.

This goes along with #5. God is real. The Bible is real. Santa is based on a real deceased person (St Nicholas), but the commercialized, magicalized Santa is NOT real. We do not lie to our kids because we want them to know the truth apart from lies. Young children have a hard time separating truth from lies cleverly disguised as harmless fun. If Santa isn’t real, and we never see him, how do we know Jesus is real? If the Elf on the Shelf, who we can actually see, isn’t real, how do we know God, who we can’t see, is real? The extent of lying that is necessary to keep this elf guy up is pretty crazy! There are enough things that kids need to hear the truth about, so going out of my way to make up elaborate stories to trick them into believing in something is just not fun or do-able to me.

In closing, I just want to know why it’s okay for parents to lie about things and expect their kids to “be good” and tell the truth? How is this an acceptable practice? Perpetuating untruth is a really pointless pursuit to us. This is the main reason Elf on the Shelf is not a good fit for our family. Our boys saw this elf and knew right away they wanted nothing to do with him, so I’m thankful that we didn’t have to deny them something that they found interesting.


Melk, The Christmas Monkey. I did a review on Melk last month, and still have a soft spot in my heart for the little guy!

Kindness elves are something else I have seen lately and they look cute and sweet. Unfortunately the The Story of the Kindness Elves book is out of stock everywhere I looked.

There’s also Shepherd in a Search.This is the full set and the above is the book.

These can be explained upfront to your children, that the characters are not real, they are just for fun, and that they will only ever do good things that no one will be ashamed of. If your children like surprises, tell them that you will be leaving the characters in fun, surprising places each night to see each morning. If your kids don’t like surprises, but want to be involved, they might want to set up scenes themselves for the rest of the family to see the next day.

Note: The Elf on the Shelf can be used in the above ways as well! He doesn’t have to be a bearer of tattles, and he doesn’t only have to do naughty things. You can use him in a good way. Our kids just think he’s too ugly to have any fun with him. 😉

What are your thoughts on Elf on the Shelf?

Thanks to Equipping Godly Women for the elf photo. 🙂

Jenn & JerryWe are Jenn and Jerry, a wife and husband team. We’ve been married since 1998, and have four special sons. Both of us have had many blogs and sites throughout the years. In the past, Jenn’s blogs have been a web journal where she’d chat, rant, and babble. But she now wants her words to be an inspiration to others, to help point families to the Lord. This new and improved Busy Being Blessed is not all about her anymore! She began to welcome guest posts from friends, with wisdom she couldn’t offer you. After a long time of Jenn asking, and both of us praying about it, Jerry has decided to come along for the adventure. He is also a former site-addict (we’ve seriously lost count of how many we’ve had), and has taken posts from his personal blogs to include here on BBB. He is the technical brains behind the team, and works on the coding for the site. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram.

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  1. Lisa Peasley says:

    I feel like a hypocrite agreeing to your post, because we have an Elf on the Shelf. Our kids believe in Santa and the magic of their elf….however, our elf is just a friend. She does not report any bad behaviors to Santa. She simply flys away to do her work. Nor do we use Santa as a tool to get our kids to behave. I never liked that idea. I am the parent, I do the disciplining. We do not bribe our kids in any way for a wanted behavior. But, that is just how I feel personally. I admittedly am in a sticky situation, my son loves Santa and when the time is right, I am going to have to be the one to tell him that we lied. (I have posted about this on Facebook). I have told him and my daughter they can always trust me, this truth will definitely hinder that. We are approaching the subject with care. I must say, growing up in a not so happy home, I loved the idea of Santa. But it did take away the true meaning of Christmas, so now as a parent who carries on the tradition of Santa, Jesus Christ’s story is told every day. Everyday we talk about what He is, what our Savior is and who this holiday is truly about. But I can certainly appreciate your view, especially now that the truth will be unveiled and having to tell my son I lied. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Oh, Lees. I am so sorry you’re in that situation! I know how special Santa was for you as a kid. <3
      I love you, and thank you for commenting!

  2. I agree with a lot of this. I definitely think it’s sad that lying is so commonplace. It’s a detriment to children’s faith. I can understand why secular people would participate but not Christians, it just doesn’t make sense to me. But like you said, these things CAN be done in a positive way, without lying. I think the elf is kind of cute myself but I wouldn’t act like he’s alive and real.

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