The Elf on the Shelf as a Parenting Tool: Yes or No?

A parent member of our online parenting support asked:

We are doing the Elf on the Shelf this year for my daughter (4-years-old). I think that the elf watching for good behavior is a good incentive. Any thought or experiences?

ANSWER

It is "fast food parenting"; definitely works and will give you a month of "perfect" children and it's a cute tradition, but the reason they follow your boundary or rule is to GET something rather than understanding that "hitting your brother is not the best way to show you are angry." You also have to be conscious of handing over your authority to something outside of you. Telling your child "I will tell dad, the police, Santa, etc" is you telling them that you cannot care/handle them. Boundaries and rules are another way a child understands/feels your love and safety. I have the elf and in my house we use it as a fun way to communicate what my little ones wish to get for Xmas. The elf also gets herself into all sorts of fun trouble at our house over night, and it is fun for them to wake up and see her in her new position each day. I don't use it for rule/boundary setting. It takes time for children to be motivated to make the right choices. It also takes time for children to build enough impulse control to follow the rules most of the time (approx. 8.5-9 years old). This is reason 100 why PARENTING IS HARD...

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