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Does Elf on the Shelf Condone a “Police State” Dictatorship?

Mankind is a creature of habit and tradition, particularly around the holidays.

While we may all differ in religious and cultural backgrounds, the one common denominator we share is how much we value family traditions – whether it be going to a particular church every Christmas Eve or using an old family recipe to stuff the turkey on Thanksgiving.

One of the more popular traditions these days is Elf on the Shelf – a children’s book (and subsequently an actual doll) that was created in 2004 and has since become a household tradition among many families who celebrate Christmas.

If you aren’t familiar with how Elf on The Shelf works, here are the cliff notes:

It’s a story about an elf that Santa recruited to watch over your children at night, then report back to him in the morning with how your child behaved. The book is accompanied by an elf figurine that parents hide around the house at night, only to be discovered in funny or cute poses by your kids in the morning. The entire premise is to get your children excited and prepared for Christmas and Santa’s arrival.

Oh yeah, and it’s also designed to TOTALLY manipulate your kids into behaving for those few weeks leading up to Christmas. That whole thing about Santa Clause only bringing presents to “nice” kids? Yeah, that most definitely was created by a parent, desperate for a tactic to get their child to behave.

Elf on the Shelf just takes that idea to a whole new level. And, as a parent to a toddler, I’m actually totally fine with this questionable parenting tactic. It works like a charm. But for some people (like Laura Pinto and Selena Nemorin), Elf on the Shelf takes behavioral manipulation to a State level that sounds like something straight out of a George Orwell novel.

Addressed in their essay, Who’s The Boss, Pinto and Nemorin argue that the concept of Elf on the Shelf perpetuates and nurtures blind acceptance to a “police-like state.” While such an extreme analysis of a Christmas childhood tradition seems absurd on the surface, it makes perfect sense on a deeper, more philosophical level.

Elf on the Shelf normalizes an existence in which people are always being watched, then rewarded or penalized based on their behavior. It symbolizes a society in which “big brother” is continually monitoring your every move, watching you through hidden cameras on your computer, on the street, in the workplace, even in the privacy of your bedroom.

And, while most kids can barely spell the words “government” or “police state” (much less understand the concepts), one has to wonder if traditions like this one help create patterns of submission and blind acceptance.

While Americans have polarizing views on topics like immigration, women’s rights, and taxes, nearly all of us would agree that no government should have the right to invade your home, monitor your actions, then penalize you if they didn’t like your behavior. But that’s exactly what Elf on the Shelf teaches.

Does that mean you should forgo this Christmas tradition? Of course not! Especially if it brings joy to your children’s lives. But maybe tweak the storyline to not suggest the Elf is spying on them.

About Mcclain W.


  1. So let me get this straight? You are actually buying into what Pinto and Nemorin are selling? Because if that is the case, then you must believe Santa in general needs to go…

  2. Please change my email to [email protected]


  3. Just don’t buy it Yep on the shelf is just that, don’t buy it then you don’t have to worry about having the police state or the government in your home by violating your rights or in your bedroom watching every move you make. Just don’t buy at yep on the shelf is just that, don’t buy it then you don’t have to worry about having the police state or the government in your home by violating your rights or in your bedroom watching every move you make. Just don’t buy at out elf elf on the shelf. It not A tradition in my home I really don’t care for it, I don’t believe in Santa Claus and I don’t believe his elf on the shelf so if you find out things that you feel that the state and the government is going to violate your home don’t buy the product and bring it to your home and you won’t be offended by what the government trying to do these things is upset you. That’s just my opinion but for me I would never buy something that I know that the government is watching me in my bedroom by leaving my children violating my rights don’t buy it don’t bring it home and put it in your car just stay away from it. Be bless this Christ-mas not Christmas That’s just my opinion.

  4. The government does keep massive bulk records on American citizens without a warrants. The government does invade people homes. The government does punish people for behavior they don’t like a.k.a. ‘red flag laws’ without due process.
    It is the parents responsibility to acquaint their children with the facts of life. Elf on the Shelf is the perfect story to get their children ready for the real world.

  5. Why is it always a deranged bimbo that makes a problem out of a no problem???

  6. The elf on the shelf also takes away from teaching children about God and His loving Presence in our lives. He sees and knows all about us every day of our lives. We can teach the children to prepare for His birth ( the reason we celebrate Christmas ) by trying to be extra good .

  7. Hi,

    I’m sorry but you need to calm down. What is going on with society that everything has to be analyzed to death, and everyone has to be so paranoid??!! I did Elf on the shelf and his girlfriend and reindeer with my son, however, I didn’t make it about having to behave. It was a cute game for my son. He enjoyed seeing what mischief the elf and his buddies had done during the night, as well as he had fun searching for them. I’m sorry but if parents need an elf or Santa to control their kid, there are much bigger issues going on. My son has always been a sweet kid who never really does anything too exciting, never really does anything bad other than regular kid stuff. Elf on the shelf should be used for what it really is intended to be used for: a cute game.

  8. Oh, COME ON!!

    Santa Claus is a magical being, able to keep up with literally billions of children around the world, and visits them all in one 24-hour period, regardless where they are (at gramma’s house or elsewhere). And by the time the kids are around 5 years old, they’ve figured out it’s a bunch of hooey.

    Sure, it makes for a great story, but it simply does not lead to the complete acceptance of a police state.

  9. Wow. You think this tradition started in 2004??? You people are really stupid.

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