Creative Child

The Tattletale Elf

Plus 5 Ways to Inspire Good Behavior
by Rebecca Eanes

It’s taken over Pinterest. It’s all over Facebook. It’s all the rage. It’s the Elf on a Shelf. Supposedly this little magic elf comes to watch your children’s behavior and report back to Santa whether they’ve been naughty or nice. It also seems to get involved in all sorts of shenanigans while it’s running around magically alive while the children sleep.

It’s all in good fun, right? Well, maybe. I love these little elves and think they’re a blast. We have one too, although he’s a little different. Their silly antics can cause lots of laughter, and laughter is good for families. Laughter connects us. What disconnects us is using it as a tattletale elf.

From the Cambridge Dictionary: tattletale (noun) a person, especially a child, who secretly tells someone in authority, especially a teacher, that someone else has done something bad, often in order to cause trouble.

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So, yes, the Elf on the Shelf is a big ole tattletale, running to tattle to Santa when the children misbehave so that they’ll be punished with a lump of coal.

Let’s try a short exercise.

Imagine for a moment that you’re dog tired and not in a very chipper mood. I know, it’s so hard to imagine, isn’t it? So, here you are, not feeling (or acting) your best. The kids are wired, the place is a mess, you have a to-do list a mile long, and bedtime can’t come fast enough.

Now imagine if your spouse had someone watching your every move and reporting back to, let’s say, your mother-in-law. Feeling resentful yet? You may be yelling less, but I’d bet you’re feeling disconnected from your spouse. And your mother-in-law. That’s because threats and tricks don’t change hearts. They don’t help us be better people.

At best, they force us to pretend to be better people as long as we are under a threat, but this only builds feelings of anger, resentment, and for some kids, shame. These feelings cause people to behave worse, not better.

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