Why We Refuse To Do Elf On the Shelf


Prior to being a parent, I would see my friend’s posts with funny photos of Elf on the Shelf, and it seemed like a delightful tradition. However, once I was a parent I realized how much work it entailed, and having to remember to move the darn elf around every night seemed daunting. While that may seem a little lazy or feel party pooper-esque, I have a few valid reasons for why we refuse to do Elf on the Shelf. 


We Believe in Honesty

When I was young, I guess I remember believing in Santa, but it didn’t come as a real shock when I found out Santa was a huge dupe.  When I married my husband, we had a long talk about whether we would participate in the Santa illusion.  We lean towards the non Santa believers that could ruin other kids’ experiences.  So we don’t flat out say Santa doesn’t exist, but we never say he does.  

My husband grew up in a family where lying was the worst offense he and his brothers could commit.  So when his parents doubled down on Santa a few times and then he found out they had lied… he was devastated.  He couldn’t believe his parents would lie to him.  Thus, we don’t lie to our children.  If someone is a jerk, I tell the girls.  If I’m a jerk, I admit to it.  It’s our family norm.  Moving around a mystical elf that doesn’t exist seems like a lie and that goes against our family norm. 

Living A Simple Life

My mom is one of the world’s best shoppers; she finds everything, everywhere and while we always love her gifts, we definitely don’t need most of the gifts.   I grew up opening far too many presents.  Then came my girls’ first Christmas: there were mountains of presents and my girls were only 7 months old. They couldn’t open them all or even play with any of the toys.  We attempt to live a quasi-simple life, so for Christmas my girls get ONE present from us.  Sometimes they talk about it being from Santa, but I kind of just ignore the comments.   Last year we painted a wall in our house as the girls’ Christmas gift.  They now draw on it as often as they like.  It was also fun for my husband and I to do something together late on Christmas Eve. 

The Tradition of Giving

Christmas is ultimately a religious holiday.  While I grew up Catholic and I would call myself a decent Catholic, the reason for the season is giving.  Our goal is to help others.  We want our daughters to know we are very fortunate and we don’t need any gifts to tell us we are blessed. We have adopted a family, helped people we know, and one of our goals is to help at a shelter (although we haven’t done it yet).  This year, the girls’ school has a giving tree; we are going to choose tags to help those in need buy food and have a nice Christmas. 

So, while this isn’t all about Elf on the Shelf, I ultimately feel that we are shying away from it for more than one reason.  I’d love to hear what you think and whether any of you out there share my same sentiments.  


  1. I live in the “don’t lie to my kids about fictional characters camp” as well. I believe in Christ as my savior and wanted to draw a distinction about what is real and what isn’t for my children.

    Recently, someone really challenged my conviction to “always tell the truth” when it comes to restricting opportunities for my children’s imagination to play. A very respectable friend I have allows her girls to believe in Santa, and fairies, and Jesus all at the same time. When we talked about it, she suggested that allowing children a landscape and environment that promotes, grows, and enables children to imagine all sorts of things actually gives children a more believing outlook and promotes their faith in things they can’t see and feel (like all sorts of religions suggest).

    I hadn’t thought about it this way! I’m not sure if I’ll promote Santa (and no one in my house has time for that little mischievous elf) but I sure am looking for better opportunities to daily grow my children’s imagination!

  2. Loved this post- we have a similar stance! We do have an elf but our kids have always known it was us making him do funny things. Santa was allowed for a short time but only as “St. Nicholas.” We figured that Jesus taught in parables to teach important lessons so the story of the real St. Nick (sans “Naughty List”) would be a way to teach giving and grace. We also had a “when they are old enough to ask, they are old enough to know” policy so revealing the truth was no real shock. We had more of a realistic approach to things so they kind of figured it out on their own.

    Since there’s no teaching value in the Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy, we’ve opted out of those entirely.

    Our kids know they are different from kids at school because they don’t believe in Santa/ The Elf and they have said how grown up it makes them feel that we trust them with the truth (don’t worry Santa-moms, we’ve told our kids not to spoil it for everyone else!). They still love Christmas just as much as any other kid but it’s sooo much easier not having to stress about the Elf!


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