Changing the focus of 'Elf on the Shelf'

HOUSTON – It's the time of year when elf on the shelf starts up tomfoolery around the house.

The children’s book tells readers the elf is watching little boys and girls to report good or bad behavior, but some experts say your household should encourage kids to focus on the tradition of the elf instead of being good just to get toys.

Megan Kale Morcomb, Menninger Clinic LCSW, said a focus on kids’ behavior can backfire and decrease motivation to be good. 

“Be intentional about how you use it, there's nothing wrong with it but I think the focus should be on creating holiday memories and fun and creativity and playing hide and seek with your kids as opposed to using it to make them behave in a certain way,” Kale Morcomb said. “Providing them a sticker for being good or a hug, something small that's more immediate is going to be more effective than making them wait until Christmas and then what are you doing when it's not December?”

She also said that gift giving should be done out of love and not determined based on whether a child is good or bad, since no child is 100 percent good or bad. 

She said she’s not suggesting throwing the elf on the shelf away, although some psychologists have encouraged that, but recommends changing the emphasis to a family tradition.

Kale Morcomb said those memories and traditions are important for children because they help them feel safe and know what to expect, while also establishing a secure attachment relationship with parents.