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The elf on the shelf is watching

No words strike more fear in the heart of a child than “Santa Claus is watching.”

There’s just something about a jolly old elf who knows if you’re naughty or nice that makes even the most mischievous child have second thoughts about his behavior.

As a parent, we’ve all used the “Santa line,” though I do think pulling it out in July or August is a bit too soon.

It’s hard to threaten kids with Santa while you’re sitting by the swimming pool, after all.

Still, I’m not above mentioning that Santa is watching and, as the tracker of behavior, presents hang in the balance. Even a child as young as Sutton seems to understand that if better behavior leads to more baby dolls, she will, in the words of my mother, straighten up and fly right.

To add to a parent’s arsenal there is now a new thing, called the Elf on a Shelf. The Elf (the Gore family elf is named “Baby Ho Ho Elf,” the sort of name you get when a 2-year-old picks it) watches your child and then, each night when the little ones are in bed, reports back to Santa. If you’ve been a good boy or girl, the elf moves during the night. If you’ve been bad, he stays in the same spot.

So far, Baby Ho Ho Elf has moved every night, though last Thursday was a stretch. He’s been on the mantel, in the refrigerator and sliding down the banister.

Each morning, I awake Sutton with the words “let’s go find our elf.” Last week, I asked her where she thought he could be.

“Wherever you moved him,” she replied.

“No,” I said quickly. “Remember? He’s magic. He goes to see Santa each night and tells him if you’ve been good or bad.”

She yawned. Obviously, I had to raise the threat level.

My opportunity came the next night when she decided to dump out a bucket of crayons on the floor, in spite of being asked not to.

“Your elf is watching,” I said. “I sure hope he doesn’t report that back to Santa.”

She looked up at me, then glanced up at the mantel where Baby Ho Ho Elf was perched. You could tell she was weighing her options.

Slowly, she began to pick up her crayons, glancing up from time to time to make sure Baby Ho Ho Elf was taking it all in.

It worked.

I hope Sutton’s good behavior makes it back to Santa Claus. And I hope he also brings a message to Santa from me.

Thanks, Big Guy. I need all the help I can get.

– Leada Gore is publisher and editor of The Hartselle Enquirer. Her column appears each Wednesday.