A mensch and an elf walk into a bar…

Well, perhaps not a bar, but into a home. Actually, lots and lots of homes according to various websites that report yearly sales of the “Mensch on the bench” and the “Elf on the shelf.”. The purpose of both the mensch (Yiddish for a person of integrity or honor) and the elf is to remind children that their behavior towards others is being watched and remembered. If they behave well and treat others with kindness, they belong on the mensch’s or elf’s “good list” and will then receive holiday presents. ¬†Parents teach their children to take the mensch or the elf very seriously if they expect gifts during Chanukah or Christmas.

So that brings about some questions. One, how many times must a child behave poorly before they get taken off the good list and lose presents? Are you really going to follow through and not get your child gifts because of poor behavior? If you are not going to follow through, do not make the promise in the first place, because your words may cease to matter and you may then lose respect.

What about adult behavior? If parents are to show integrity, then perhaps they should also participate. Shouldn’t the mensch or the elf watch over the adults as well? If so, then based on the types of behaviors clients’ discuss with their family therapists, there would be a lot of adults that would receive nothing for the holidays.

Finally, what about the rest of the year? Isn’t the idea of both the mensch and the elf to give back to others. How do you instill that meaning during the other 11 months? Perhaps this holiday season could provide a basis for change and an opportunity to learn the true meaning of giving to others year round. Then both the mensch and the elf will really have done the job for which they were originally created.

Happy Holidays

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