Elf on the Shelf: What is it and why it could make your children paranoid

The Elf on the Shelf is dispatched from the North Pole  to keep a watchful eye on the children

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The Independent Online

Elf on the Shelf is the new Christmas craze sweeping parents and children across the globe.

As with Black Friday, the tradition has been imported from the US and adopted by parents in the UK in recent years.

However, some psychologists warned the idea of Santa sending a scout to watch over children could actually be harming and cause anxiety.

As we near Christmas day, here is everything you need to know about this growing holiday tradition.

What is Elf on the Shelf?

The original Elf on the Shelf is based on a book of the same name, written by Carole Aebersold and Chandra Bell and is designed to improve kids’ behaviour by encouraging them to stay on Santa’s "nice list".

Santa’s elves are said to have been dispatched from the North Pole to every home at the start of December to watch over children in the house.

Any undesirable behaviour is reported back to the big boss himself, who alters his naughty/nice list accordingly.

Over the years, the book has grown in popularity both in the US and the UK and has now become a tradition for a lot of families. 

Meanwhile, retailers have turned the traditions in a merchandise opportunity.

Parents can now buy their own Elf on the Shelf from retailers across the UK such as Tesco for £31,95 or from the Elf on the Shelf’s official website from £29.95.

How does it work?

The idea is simple. Parents put the elf on a shelf in early December and inform their children that he will always be watching and judging them for signs of bad behaviour.

They are supposed to move the little toy around the house to create the illusion that he is popping up in different locations and always reporting back to Father Christmas

Why could it be harmful? 

If the idea of an Elf send by Santa himself could add to the magic of Christmas, some child experts  warned that the concept could also cause fear and shame in children.

Ewan Gillon, a chartered psychologist and clinical director of First Psychology Scotland, told the Scotsman, that the idea of an elf that moves around the house, watching our every move, could cause “significant repercussions” for children.

He said: "The elf itself is one which most children usually consider a positive Christmas character; however they may start to feel uneasy knowing that it’s going to come ‘alive’ during the night and they won’t know when, or see it moving around.

"This unknown can cause real anxiety, especially those who may already have a fear of ‘haunted toys’, or toys they have seen come alive in films.”

Meanwhile, Dr Katherine Edward, a chartered and clinical psychologist, said the elf might  prevent children from learning from their own mistakes.

She said: "The concern I would have with the “Elf” is the manner in which children might feel that they have ‘ruined’ something and cannot make it right if they show what is natural curiosity and pushing of boundaries".

“It may also lead to longer term negative feelings around the event of Christmas itself. Using the threat of the elf as punishment for bad behaviour can cause confusion, especially for younger children who need their punishment to follow immediately after their bad behaviour, in order to understand it."