By definition, magic is manipulation… an attempt to influence “the course of events by using mysterious or supernatural forces.”
But, it is also “wonderful” and “exciting.”
In 1584 Englishman Reginald Scot, published The Discoverie of Witchcraft, debunking claims that magicians used supernatural methods by showing how their ‘magic tricks’ were accomplished through ‘sleight-of-hand’ manipulations using rope, paper and coins.
Fascinated with magic myself, I’ve NEVER wondered why my children are too and have enjoyed watching their eyes light up while trying to figure out the mystery of a magician’s tricks every time they’ve encountered one while out and about.
The other night at bedtime, my son Frank (4) was telling me all about his classroom’s funny little Elf on the Shelf, named Silverbells and said…
Mommy, Silverbells is magic! Just like God.
Knowing magic is typically associated with evil and the occult, the LAST thing I’d ever want my son to associate God with is “magic.”
Thinking on my feet (while lying down:), I replied…
No, buddy… magic is manipulation.
I went on to say,
“Magic is trickery and deceit; God is NONE of those things.
God is love. He is patient. He is kind. He is not easily angered, and He keeps no records of wrong.
He is the Truth and the Way… always protecting, always loving, always persevering.
He is NOT a magician. He is God, and being God is WAY cooler than being a magician.”
From a four-year-old’s perspective, I can see the similarities. But, as his mother, I believe I have an obligation to help him understand the difference between God and magic, just as I have an obligation to help him understand the difference between “good” people and “bad” people.
That being said, I was actually quite happy when his teachers introduced The Elf last year. It meant I was off the hook at home! (But it also made drop offs much easier as Frank was eager to go to school everyday, hunting for silly little Silverbells:).
As a tactile learner however, I sensed Frank’s frustration with the adorably mischievous Elf that was part of his classroom, but untouchable by his classmates.
Wanting to fulfill his physical NEED to hold Silverbells… feeling his face, arms and legs… I bought him The Elf on the Shelf Plushee Pal, which is “The elf you can play with!”
He loved his little Elf and named him Silverbells, too.
Like all of Frank’s favorite stuffed “friends,” Silverbells’ novelty eventually wore off and he was cast aside, finding his new home on the side of Frank’s bed between the frame and the wall.
While I greatly enjoy the pictures of funny little elves shared on Facebook throughout the month of December (and increasingly admire the creativity of the many parents who come up with nightly activities for them to do!), I’ve not yet embraced the idea of manipulating my children’s behaviors at Christmastime by telling them yet another lie about someone “watching” them, monitoring their every move and deciding whether they’ve been “naughty” or “nice.”
Instead, I’ve chosen to retain my authority as their parent, enforcing my role as one of the few people responsible for correcting their behaviors.
And, rather than betraying my children’s trust – when that’s the ONLY thing that’ll help me sleep at night once they’re teenagers – I’ve decided to forgo all the silly holiday traditions that involve lying to my children because honesty is the only hope I have they’ll come to me for guidance and truth in the future.
Don’t get me wrong however, I’m all for a little fun and games, which is why we play with our elf together.
Perhaps you’ll consider letting your children play with your elf this year, too?
Or better yet… perhaps you’ll let your child(ren) be part of the process? After all, quality time spent being silly with their parents is the best gift children can receive.
The following photos are some of our favorite ideas, created by Harper (6) and Frank (4).
We’d love to see your family’s elf photos, too! Please share them with us, tagging them with @GivingFamilies and #ChristmasExperiment. Thanks!
If looking for ways to enjoy the Truth this holiday season by putting Christ back in Christmas, check out some of these ideas:
- Consider Jesus’ perspective on Santa.
- Reconsider forcing children to sit on Santa’s lap.
- Write a Santa a different kind of letter.
- Help your children experience what Jesus meant when he said, “It’s better to give than to receive” all year long (not just during the holidays).
Beth Nowak is a believer, dreamer, wife and mother, former Kindergarten teacher, and founder of GivingFamilies.com where she helps parents and children (ages 4+) “make memories while making a difference.” She’s also a mental health activist, TEDx presenter and inspirational speaker promoting civic engagement as a holistic approach to healing. For more information on the many topics she presents on, please click here.