Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Elf on a Shelf...

I see a lot of folks using this 'Elf on a Shelf' thing to persuade their kids to behave during the holiday season. Honestly, I am not that impressed with it. Blackmailing your kids just strikes me as distasteful. I've tried looking at it from the perspective of 'whatever works' but I just can't get behind it.

I realize that the holidays are hard for parents. Between the chaos of the kids getting excited and wound up at school, the stress of paying for the boat load of toys you're expected to buy, and the wonkiness of attempting to plan for all of those get togethers, I realize that parents have a rough time of it this time of year. Heck, I'm a parent and I have a hard time with it all too. You guys aren't alone.

At the same time, blackmail is just not the way to approach this. And that is truly what I think this 'elf on a shelf' thing is. The Free Dictionary defines blackmail as:
blackmail [ˈblækˌmeɪl]
1. (Law) the act of attempting to obtain money by intimidation, as by threats to disclose discreditable information
2. the exertion of pressure or threats, esp unfairly, in an attempt to influence someone's actions
vb (tr)
1. (Law) to exact or attempt to exact (money or anything of value) from (a person) by threats or intimidation; extort
2. to attempt to influence the actions of (a person), esp by unfair pressure or threats
I am using the term in the sense of the verb in the second definition. Is it really that fair to tell a child that if they don't behave that some omniscent little spy is going to deprive them of the holiday experience? That's a fast way to set a kid up with a complex that has them afraid that if they don't do EVERYTHING just the right way, then they are going to lose something big.

It's one thing to sit the kids down and tell them that no matter how excited, they still need to follow the house rules. And if they're too little for that conversation, just sticking with the household rules like normal is a good thing. Think for a moment, the holidays are stressful for you. You're an adult, you have a better grasp on how to handle stress. Now imagine that you're a little kid with out the tools or experience to understand the ups and downs of the holiday season.

Pretty scary thought, isn't it? Now throw into that mix the added pressures of having to use your best behavior all the time. On top of that, put the nebulous consequence of being punished for potentially the slightest misstep and losing out on something you may have been looking forward to all year. It's a rotten place to be.

That is why I just can't get behind the Elf on a Shelf thing.

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