How To Use Elf On The Shelf To Get The Kids To Behave…

I did not choose my elf on the shelf.

He chose me.

If you read my post on the Easter Bunny, you would know that I’m not a big fan of being pressured into all this American bullshit through social media.

However, about two years ago my lovely neighbours Kevin and Sally (no, I don’t live on Coronation Street), bought the kids an elf on the shelf (or a cheap knock-off version), and so a new family tradition was born/forced upon us.

Kev and Sal thought it was such a lovely idea.

And they’re right.

It is.

Until you forget to set up a prank and you have to deal with the epic fall out the next morning. It is a lovely idea, until you’re lying in bed one night about to drift off and you remember…

‘Fuck! We’ve forgotten to do elf on the shelf!’

Anyway, like him or loathe him, we are now stuck with the little bell end, and so let’s make this little shit bag work to our advantage, shall we?

Let’s look at the origins of elf on the shelf…

Elf on the shelf was actually invented by an American family as a behaviour management tool. Don’t know about you, but I just thought he was a naughty little dude doing pranks for the mega lolz.

Not so my friends.

OK, so last year I was THAT mum.

So here you go, here’s my…

Top ten ways to use the elf on the shelf as a behaviour management tool:

  1. Tell your kids why the elf is there. He’s been sent to look out for nice or naughty behaviour. (be sure to label the behaviour not the child. I’ve talked about this before in ‘separating the child from the behaviour’, see here) Tell them he returns to the North Pole every night to report back to the big man.
  2. Make a list of targets for good behaviour the elf likes. Focus on no more than three at a time. E.g. eating tea without a fuss, no hitting, good listening.
  3. Every time your child does something good/kind/nice be sure to draw it to the the elf’s attention. Make a big deal of it. You could even go and tell the elf about the behaviour.
  4. If there’s a lot of bad behaviour, or the targets haven’t been met that day, remove the elf that night and hide it. They’ll be gutted, but this is good. Sanctions work best when it’s something they care about. The next day talk it through and get them to figure it out – ‘Why do you think the elf hasn’t come back?’ Once they’ve worked out it was maybe because of their behaviour, tell them the elf only comes back to homes where the kids practice nice/good/kind behaviour. Bring him back only when the good behaviour returns.
  5. Be strong – Ok so there may be a fall out or tantrum at this point but – so what! This is normal. You’ll only have to deal with it once, maybe twice before they know that you (and the elf) mean business.
  6. Be consistent – Stick to the rules. Kids like clear rules and structure. It makes them feel safe and secure. It teaches them boundaries and makes them respect you.
  7. Be clear – Don’t bombard them with rules and taggets. Keep it simple and use words and language they understand.
  8. Make the pranks as fun as possible. There are lots of insta accounts and websites out there with loads of easy, fun ideas. You don’t have to be one of those mums who wraps their whole bathroom suite in wrapping paper… I mean come on, who has time for that shit? (ahem… see above pic) Some really simple ones my kids loved last year were – a teddy tea party, a game of scrabble, hiding in the biscuit tin or hanging knickers on the tree. None of these took more than five minutes. I promise.
  9. If there’s been really good behaviour, maybe leave an extra reward with the elf like a chocolate coin or an ‘extra story at bedtime token’.
  10. If there’s been a challenging target met, have the elf deliver a note from Santa saying – ‘Because you have done X I will make sure toy or game X that you have asked for is in your stocking.’

So ok…

All this requires some effort and forward thinking from us frazzled mums and dads, but all behaviour management does, right? There’s no denying, the elf on the shelf is a bit of a faff. However, seeing their faces in the morning when they find him is priceless, and if we can use him to get our kids behaving, then surely this new tradition is a positive.

Thanks as always for reading. Please head over to my latest insta post to comment and please tag a friend who you think may enjoy. 

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