Millions of parents use the elf-on-the-shelf to monitor behavior. It's easy to try to make sure your children behave, while some don't like making them behave only because they're being watched. If you choose to use the elf, you have to make sure the behaviors you're encouraging are healthy.
For context, this year was the first time we would try the 'elf on the shelf' with our kids. We have three kids, Lucas (9M), Andy (8M), and Claire (5F). Where Lucas and Andy are from our past relationships. However, Miles (my husband M37) has accepted Andy as his, and so did I (F35) with Lucas.
Every Christmas is special for Andy; his birthday is on Dec/24. His dad started a tradition where Santa would've consideration with him for being a 'kid of Christmas.' So he feels magical. I always try to give him that. Last year, I left 'Santa Claus' footsteps and ate a carrot and 'grass' he left for Rudolf. Stuff like that.
My husband doesn't think it's a good idea. I do all that for him, and I'm showing favoritism. So, we should shut it down because my ex decides to create a tradition without considering my other kid's feelings. But he asked if we could do something else, like the Elf on the shelf. He explained to me quickly, and since he was the one who offered, I let him do it. I had no problem with it, but I didn't know how that worked.
We bought the cute Elf. My kids named it 'Bob.' Later my husband explained to them they should behave and never touch/hold Bob if they don't want it to be naughty. At first, seeing them spy on Bob and try to see it 'fly' each night was cute. Andy was the most excited of all; I found him talking with it one night, asking if Santa still remembered him.
But my husband took the 'Behave or Bob seriously would be naughty' part. Lucas was his first victim after he didn't do his chores. The next day, his face was drawn on with sharpie markers. Then Claire, who touched Bob had her favorite onesie destroyed. Bob had cut some pieces of it while she was sleeping.
Miles was having fun, but I could see my kids weren't. I talked to him about lowering the pranks; he agreed but wanted to catch Andy since he hadn't broken any rules. I told him that Bob should tell Santa instead of being naughty. We argued, but he finally agreed.
Fast forward, it's Christmas Eve, and in the afternoon, we had some of Andy's friends to celebrate his birthday. The kids were playing in the backyard. But my husband looked suspicious. I decided to look for Bob. It was supposed to be in the kitchen, but it wasn't there, I asked Miles where it was, and he told me, 'no idea.'
I started getting paranoid, but Andy asked me if we could cut the cake. I put my best face on and went for it. The cake was in a box, and when Andy opened the box. He starts crying. I take a look, and it's ruined. 'Bob' was covered in all of it, appearing to have been eating the cake. Half of the cake wasn't there anymore. Miles starts laughing, and so do some of the other parents.
My blood is boiling, and I grab Bob and throw it in the trash. Then I grabbed Miles. We have a terrible argument; he calls me an AH for what I did to Bob, saying that I've ruined it, and how are we supposed to keep the 'magic' with our kids if I wasn't supposed to touch Bob?
The internet is not a fan of your current husband.
NTA (Not the A**hole). But Jesus there's something wrong with your husband. He wanted Andy to do something wrong so he could punish him (things like destroying their clothes are not a prank it's a punishment). Your husband is hazing your children.
He ruined the birthday party with his juvenile and sadistic prank, as much as he most likely ruined the joyful and child-like spirit of the occasion for the two other kids with the other earlier stupid jokes.
What a creepy and horrible Christmas 'tradition' to traumatize your kids. A doll that watches over them and exacts vengeance, just for kicks.
I usually don’t tend to say this, but this action on your husband's behalf is horrible and worth divorce papers being delivered.
Elf on the shelf is supposed to be a tradition to keep the kid's spirits and hopes for Christmas. Not something the parents can use as an excuse to be bullies with their kids. Kids remember this stuff, and now Andy would have a terrible core memory of his birthday. It’s okay to joke with it a little, but he took it too far.
Also, ask Miles why he was so obsessed with getting Andy. That’s what freaked me out the most. Please, OP, get away from this dude. NTA.
OP, did you marry and adult man or a frat bro?