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.
Instead of tattling on kids for bad behavior, the Kindness Elf rewards children for doing good deeds.
Elberspacher calls her creation "the perfect combination of magic and reality," and a nice way to promote the true spirit of the holiday season. She even calls the Kindness Elf an "extension of The Greatest Story Ever Told."
The Elf - which is nicknamed Jingle in Elberspacher's home - leaves a daily mission of kindness for the children every morning in December, which gives them "the opportunity to practice intentional kindness on a daily basis."
The blogger's examples of these good deeds include:
- Open the door for a stranger
- Pay for someone's coffee
- Call a friend and tell them one thing you love about them
- Go to a church, Salvation Army, or community center and adopt a child/family for Christmas
But even the Elf realizes it can be tiring doing something nice every day. A few times each week, Jingle leaves Family Fun Missions instead of good deeds to perform. These missions include things like looking at Christmas lights together, a holiday movie night, or going ice skating.
"Here's the thing, mamas and papas," Elberspacher explains, "KINDNESS MATTERS. And there is no better time than the season of love to teach our kids about what matters the most in this life."
Will you be swapping the Elf on the Shelf for a Kindness Elf this year?
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