Elf on the Shelf shouldn't just be about the gifts

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NBC News (NBC) - This is the time of year when 'elf on the shelf' starts up the tomfoolery around the house.

The book promises that the elf is watching little boys and girls to report to Santa good or bad behavior.

But as Haley Hernandez explains, some mental health experts say your household should encourage kids to focus on the tradition of the elf instead of being good just to get toys.

That mischievous elf on the shelf can be a fun and creative holiday tradition for families but Megan Lale Morcomb, of the Menninger Clinic, says a focus on kids behavior can backfire and decrease children's motivation to be good.

"Really providing them a sticker for being good or a hug, something small that's more immediate is going to be more effective than making them wait until Christmas to get all of these gifts. And then what do you do when it's not December?"

She also says that gift giving should be done out of love and not determined based on whether a child is good or bad since no child is 100% good or bad.

She's not suggesting throwing the elf on the shelf away, although some psychologists have encouraged that, but Morcomb recommends changing the emphasis to a family *tradition.*

After all, it can be fun for everyone!

Marcomb says those memories and traditions are important for children because they help them feel safe and know what to expect, while also establishing a secure attachment relationship with parents.