Curbing bad behaviour at Christmas time

Penny Power has one Elf on the Shelf for each of her daughters (
Penny Power has one Elf on the Shelf for each of her daughters (

Getting your children to behave becomes a little easier around Christmas time, with threats of Santa's visit being cancelled, the naughty list and the bribery of sweets and gifts.

Another technique that's becoming more popular is something you may or may not have heard of - The Elf of the Shelf.

It's a relatively new concept on New Zealand shores, but this year is his tenth official birthday.

The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition's a children's book explaining the story of Santa's elves, who are sent to be Santa's eyes and ears at children's homes around the world.

The book comes with an accompanying doll which you 'adopt' and give a name; the story goes that the "scout elf receives its Christmas magic" and flies to the North Pole each night to tell Santa Claus how the children have behaved.

Once the children are in bed, parents move the elf in to a new spot in the house so when the kids wake each morning their elf is in a new spot to watch that day's adventures.

The book was first published in the US in 2005, and slowly has crept its way to New Zealand, with more parents hearing the about the story from their overseas friends and going out of their way to obtain the book, which is quick to sell out each year.

The story is based on one woman's family tradition that she started in the 1970s. blogger Penny Power is using The Elf of the Shelf for the third year in a row, but says it';s more to do with creating tradition and fond memories for her two daughters, aged five and two.

"They just get a kick out of finding the elves each morning," she says.

Ms Power found out about the book through an American family and says it's huge over there.

She says some people love the idea and some hate it, but believes it's definitely gaining momentum in New Zealand.

"I could have sold thousands with the amount of parents I've had asking me about where to purchase it."

Mum of two, Jordan Whittaker, found out about Elf on Pinterest before she'd even had children. Rather than buying the patented version, she invested in a version by Kiwi boutique DonnaBDesign.

"My son is only three so I'm not sure he 100 percent understands the total idea of it, so I don't really use it as a behavioural tool,"she says.

Ms Whittaker isn't against the idea of using it to encourage good behaviour, however.

"I did tell him one night that if he didn't go to sleep that Otto (his elf) wouldn't be able to get to Santa and back by morning. He went to sleep pretty fast."


Not everyone is convinced, however. Some parenting experts say you shouldn't bribe children with gifts to prompt good behaviour.

In an interview with US publication Psychology Today, Dr David Kyle Johnston said it is a "dangerous parental crutch".

Another American Psychologist, Professor Laura Pinto, went as far as to say that it conditions kids to accept a "surveillance state" and that "it's okay for other people to spy on you, and you're not entitled to privacy."

"If you grow up thinking it's cool for the elves to watch me and report back to Santa, well, then it's cool for the NSA to watch me and report back to the Government."

3 News