Pro Tip: Have Your Kid's Elf on the Shelf Report Good Behavior Instead of Bad

This is the parenting holiday hack you didn't even know you needed.

elf on a shelf doll in front of Christmas trees
Photo: Getty Images

Whether you're a fan or not, it's that time of year again: the Elf on the Shelf is making its grand entrance into homes to help report back to Santa Claus who's been naughty and who's been nice.

Many parents get uber creative with their elves—busting out all the accessories and tricks—and others prefer to opt for last-minute or easy Elf on the Shelf ideas. There's no wrong way to celebrate! But one parent on Reddit has a genius tip that other families can incorporate into their holiday tradition year after year, and it focuses on having the Elf on the Shelf reward your child's good behavior rather than call out any "bad" behavior.

"Tons of people have an Elf on the Shelf because they're super cute," wrote Reddit user u/Wishyouamerry. "But plenty of people (even some people who have them) find the 'spying/tattling' aspect a little creepy." On top of that, the poster said that their kids were pretty average and didn't act out all the time—so telling them they'd be punished through Santa for "regular kid stuff" felt like too much.

"Instead, I told my kids that Santa knows people have bad days or make mistakes," the post continued. "That happens to everybody sometimes! But when he sees you actively trying to do better, sometimes he's impressed enough to increase the quality/amount of your gifts. We all know how differently we react to having to do something to avoid punishment vs doing it to gain a reward. Kids are no different! Instead of teaching kids to hide their less desirable behaviors, this method encourages them to step up their good behaviors."

Simple enough, right? This technique is just what parents need to help encourage kindness and reward the positive things their kids are doing versus focusing on the negative, small stuff. It's also one more way to get the whole family on board with doing good deeds during the holiday season—or any time of year. Toddler help get a new diaper for baby brother? Let the Elf on the Shelf know. All the kids donate their old clothes and toys to families in need? Santa will be hearing about this!

So forget the idea of using toys to "spy" on your kids and trick them into behaving—which, let's be honest, as a parent of a toddler I might still utilize from time to time!—and, instead, make the holiday tradition more productive for your little ones. And even if you're still not an Elf on the Shelf fan, the idea of focusing on the good and instilling positive values in your kids is something we can all get behind.

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