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Skipping Elf on the Shelf Does Not Make You a Bad Parent

I see articles about Elf on the Shelf, Kindness Elves, or November dinosaur adventures, all of which are traditions that require daily creative effort from parents after they’ve put kids to bed, and I think that maybe parents don’t need to do that stuff to be good at parenting.
Actually, let me take out the qualifiers.
You don’t need to do that stuff to be good at parenting.
If you love it and it adds joy to your life. Great. Go for it. If it burdens you, do something else. Find a tradition or point of connection with your children that brings you joy: read stories, play video games, go on walks, parent child yoga, whatever. The point is that you share something, not that you attempt to contort yourself for the current popular fad.

I’m so glad these things are popular when my kids are too old to care. I’d have been terrible at them. Twenty-five-year-old me would have felt like a failure for being terrible at them. You can ask my kids, I was a horrible tooth fairy. And it is okay. My kids are happy. Their lives are full of their own creative efforts. They are not emotionally scarred because they had to dig the teeth out from under their pillows and hand them to me in order to get paid. In fact, that has become a point of connection, a family joke.

So I say to parents of young children, skip the dinosaurs and elves unless they genuinely make YOU happy as well as your children. You don’t need the stress.

An additional note of caution: time and energy intensive traditions may not be possible every year. This year’s joy can become next year’s overwhelming burden. If it was fun last year and you hate it this year, find a way to let it go.

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2 comments to Skipping Elf on the Shelf Does Not Make You a Bad Parent

  • Eliza

    I think that often parents focus on things that aren’t super important as the measure of how good of a parent they are. If I feed my baby this, or if I provide the best holiday/birthday experience, if they play a musical instrument, or other things. I think it’s more important to teach our kids things like to be kind and hard workers. The other things will fall into place, or they won’t, which can also be OK.

  • Hannah

    It’s so hard to tell if you’re doing a good job or not. The feed back loop is rather long. It’s tempting to grab onto something measurable and use either as evidence to bolster ones confidence, or a stick to beat ourselves with when we feel like failures. Neither of which are actaully beneficial, as both tend to lead us away from faith and revelation (which is the only way I know of to get just in time feed back) and toward relying on our own understanding.

    I don’t even know what ‘elf of a shelf’ refers to. And I think I’ll avoid looking it up, just in case my hind brain is looking for sticks today.