A Winnipeg mother is encouraging parents to ditch a holiday tradition in favour of something with a more positive message.
Suzanne Beaumont was recently doing some Christmas shopping at a toy store when she came across the popular Elf on the Shelf toy and book. The elf is a magical creature that moves around each night, assigned by Santa to watch over the home and ensure kids stay on the right side of that all-important naughty or nice scale.
"I got two or three sentences in and what stopped me in my tracks … was the sentence [about how] his sole responsibility was to watch the children's behaviour and report it to Santa each night," Beaumont said.
Beaumont said Elf on the Shelf sends a message to kids that they are under constant surveillance by Santa and his pointy-eared minions.
"Somewhat subliminal or somewhat unconsciously sending the message that you had better do something or else there's a consequence to your behaviour. It's somewhat threatening," she said.
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"At this time of year, you walk through any department store or toy store and you hear that threat: you better behave or Santa's not going to bring you anything. The whole 'lump of coal in your stocking' mentality, it doesn't work — we can't threaten kids into good behaviour."
Beaumont left the toy story "really disturbed," in her words, and felt something needed to be done to counter the tradition.
"I just couldn't shake the fact that this was a Christmas tradition, my daughter wanted to do it, but how could we do it differently?" Beaumont said.
"I thought, 'What if the elf actually taught them something? What if his role was to be the example for them and give them an opportunity to practise kindness, practise compassion, practise gratitude?"
So Beaumont brought the elf home and gave him a new moniker: "Kindness the Elf."
She explained to her daughter that the elf's purpose was to bring kindness to them during the holidays and to encourage her to be good for goodness' sake, not out of fear of punishment.
For about a week now, Beaumont's daughter has woken up every morning and headed straight for the mailbox. That's where she finds instructions from Kindness telling her what positive things she has to do that day.
Thus far, Kindness has ordered her to make a Christmas ornament, to call a loved one on the phone she hadn't spoken with for a while and to hold the door open for someone.
"It's funny. Yesterday with the telephone call, she immediately did the prompt first thing in the morning. She called my mom; she spoke to grandma for a bit.
"Then she turned to me and said, 'Mom, being kind is so easy, these [prompts] are easy.' I was like, 'Yeah, being kind really is easy, isn't it?' It was really nice hearing that comment coming from her."