Inventor Chanda Bell drew on her family's own Christmas traditions to create the Elf on the Shelf, and in just 12 years it has become a global phenomenon.
The smiling sprite with a tall, red hat sits in a family's home and watches their children. The idea is that the Elf will note any "naughty" behavior and report it to Santa, so he helps keep kids in line until Christmas Eve rolls around. Of course, parents also have fun putting the Elf in all kinds of silly situations while their children are in bed.
Parents and kids have fallen in love with the little Elf, and he's become an annual tradition in millions of American homes. But some parents also have a bone to pick with Santa's littlest helper. Many complain that the Elf teaches children they only need to behave when someone is watching, or when Christmas presents are on the line.
A pair of researchers from Canada even suggest the Elf prepares kids for a life of constant surveillance by the authorities.
Blogger Lauren Elberspacher, who writes at the website From Blacktop to Dirt Road, has her own complaints about the Elf, and took him off her shelf this year. In his place, she's set up her own creation: the Kindness Elf.
And she's proposing a new set of family traditions that we can all get behind.