Change, Mental Health, Podcast, Self Care

Mum Confession: I Hate Elf on the Shelf

Oh shit! I forgot it again! TW You may find your love of The Elf on The Shelf to be seriously harmed from reading this blog.Really. If you are doing it, have you thought about why you are doing it? Have you got time to think of another “cheeky” thing for that elf to do the next day. That’s on top of all the stuff we are expected to do, nay, demanded that we achieve across the festive period.I think this tweet really exemplifies two of the reasons I hate it.

I was never sold, or in on the idea of the elf as a parent, as even before I became a parent I was a nursery teacher and had spent time thinking about what society put into the belief around santa. So many people may think I’m just chatting shit, and taking away the magic of Christmas, this is not my mission. Santa, as our society represents him, has a history of dividing kids up into good and bad, and rewarding the kids who are good and punishing those who are bad.

How do those kids who struggle to “behave” feel about Christmas? Because the behaviour they display is not deemed universally acceptable, they are labelled as bad and don’t get a present because of it. This is complete bullshit. As a conscious parent, who thinks about the consequences of different elements of what I do, I simply cannot keep perpetuating this myth. My two eldest are autistic, and would possibly easily fall into the Bad category if we were to apply these arbitrary and neuro-typical society norms of behaviour upon them, they surely would have never got a present from Santa. To be fair, they haven’t had one from Santa, but not because they are bad. But for a whole heap of reasons.

#1 Telling kids Santa is real is lying to them point blank for years. Using this lie as a premise to make our kids behave, and presumably not lie as part of that, is just ridiculous.

#2 Dividing kids up into good and bad for any reason is just plain divisive, and unhelpful. It may be what our society thinks is normal and acceptable, but that is because it  hasn’t been challenged enough. Think about it. If you are labelled bad for any reason, it is quite likely that you are more likely to continue to be bad, as what we are told often enough, think often enough or hear enough we become. 

Being labelled as good is also not that helpful, because who is doing the labelling anyway. Upon what basis or set of norms are they deciding this. Its arbitrary at best, and hugely problematic. As adults we are teaching our children how society works, how they can fit in with it, and make a life for themselves. With this belief we are telling people they are irredeemable, that if they do something wrong that they are punished and branded for life in that way. This is no small problem, and can lead to huge mental health issues, problems with getting into trouble at school and then beyond.

#3 Using the idea of going on the bad list as a reason for kids to be respectful and kind is just utter bollocks, and completely myopic. Let’s expand it a little so we can see it a bit clearer. When we want someone to do something there are number of ways we can achieve it. Let’s take the example of putting clothes in the laundry basket as an example. It is a simple chore, achievable by even the youngest of children. Think through what might happen in the different scenarios:

  1. You say, “When you take your clothes off, please put them in the laundry basket.”
  2. You demand, “Put your dirty clothes in the laundry basket or else.”
  3. You bribe, “If you don’t put your dirty clothes in the laundry basket there will be no screens tonight.”
  4. You reward, “If you put your dirty clothes in the laundry basket, you can have some sweets.”
  5. You have talked with your kids about being respectful to people and their clothes, and discussed ways in which we can show respect, and be helpful

There are other possibilities, but let’s keep this simple.  With b, c & d it’s quite possible that the dirty laundry will go in the basket. Yay, job done! Well yes, but remember I talked about the myopic element here. That is, this is like our government, pretty short term thinking, leading to a confused person lacking independent skills, and the ability to make appropriate moral judgements without the hand of fear or juicy money at the core of their decision making process. And we wonder why we have such power hungry people in this world. 

With a, you may get the job done, but you may not. The child has no particular reason to do this or not, so it really depends on your relationship, how they feel at that moment etc. But ask yourself, have you ever not put your dirty clothes in the laundry basket because you didn’t feel like it? So this is a kind of neutral zone. You aren’t coercing your child into particular behaviour, but they also aren’t making connections around self care habits and respect of other people and property.

That is where “e” comes in. It is the long game, and for many parents can feel like they don’t have TIME to do the long game, but in doing so, they are actually doing the harder work, because without having a good understanding of being kind or respectful, as a parent you are going to have to do the work CONSTANTLY to coerce your child at every stage. And then… you will have taught them for years that coercion is a perfect way to get people to do what you want, so they will go on and do it in their own lives, and depending on other factors, they may go on to be coercively controlling in relations which is abuse and illegal. (to find out more about red flag behaviour as a teen that leads to this sort of behaviour, please check out Be Kind No Excuses. (FB Group or Book)

#4 The fact that Santa is discriminating not just on ability to do performative social acceptive behaviour or not, but also on how much money your family might have. The fact that many parents don’t have the money to buy gifts, and others spend huge amounts on their kids and give all the credit to this dude in a red suit. The imbalance is just ridiculous.

Okay, I got sidetracked talking about Santa, but “he” is the reason that “The Elf On The Shelf” popped into our worlds in the 1970s, it only really came across the pond from the US about 10 years ago with the globalisation of the internet and social media. Now it is pretty much everywhere in our society at this time of year. I was prompted to write this post after seeing someone ask if we were doing it in our homes. I was about to put my rant in there, and realised I had far more to say than just a social media comment, so here it is.

The Elf is an introduction to being spied on, and our acceptance of that as a society.

@boxmunk #stitch with @imdatmamma I hate Elf on the Shelf. #elfontheshelf #neurodivergentparenting #gentleparenting ♬ original sound – Boxmunk

This Tiktoker has got it with the surveillance state. The idea that if we, as parents forget, or simply don’t have time to stage an elaborate set up for the elf each and every day, that that makes our kids bad. And on top of that, because they are bad, they don’t get any presents from this white dude who is going to creep into our house in the middle of the night later that month

Is it okay to invite a spy into our home and listen to everything being said? Well if you said no, then you better get rid of your Alexa and all google or I/OS devices, because, like it or not when we bring them into our homes we are inviting this exact thing in. But that is for another post. However, it is interesting to see how readily we invite this spying in, and even make it into a fun character that we want to have in our homes.

Just another thing to add to the load of Christmas

If you saw my other Christmas post, you will know a bit of how I feel about the overwhelming nature of Christmas. I didn’t even mention the elf in that post, because obviously I don’t do it, but 1st December hit, and it’s everywhere. The reels I’ve seen whilst researching this post attest to the time and effort people will go to. If you find it fun and have the time to engage in it, and still believe that the little scamp can hang out and cause havoc in your house all December, that you do you, but I cannot imagine how the stakes must get ramped up day after day, and year after year. I’ve seen a tonne of posts on what to do with your elf. I’m just thinking. OMG, what a load of extra stuff to think about when I’m already stressed out, particularly when it has such high stakes, if you set it up in that way.

Is it fair that we are bombarded with all this stuff, and have that feeling of not giving our kids the full christmas experience if we don’t and if we don’t take them to the Santa experience at the weekend.

I’m just done! If you are as enraged as me, feel free to share this post far and wide. And if you think I’m chatting shit, and should just enter into the Christmas spirit, feel free to share far and wide saying how annoying I am!!!

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