Unless you want your children doomed to a lifetime of psychopathology and a mountain of future therapy bills, avoid these holiday gifts at all costs:
1. Elf on the Shelf. The "Elf on the Shelf" is a Christmas tradition, where parents hide a small elf doll at various places around the house in the days leading up to Christmas. The elf on the shelf is a "scout elf". He watches over the children to make sure they are behaving and each night he flies to the North Pole to report back to Santa. The feeling of constantly being watched by a magical creature that is just waiting for you to screw up is surely a breeding ground for a lifetime of paranoid psychopathology.
The Elf is watching you
2. The Game of Life. Ah yes, there's nothing better than a board game reminding you that you could easily be condemned to a lifetime of underpaid salaries, house fires, bankruptcy and childlessness.
3. Fisher Price Medical Kit. Hypochondriacs rejoice! Now every cough, sniffle, or boo-boo can be treated as a major medical emergency.
4. A Santa outfit. Dressing your child up in a Santa outfit for holiday photos is why your child will grow into an adolescent who hates you.
5. A Barbie doll or superhero action figure. Can you say body image issues?
6. The Magic 8-Ball. See Schizotypal Personality Disorder criteria #2: odd beliefs or magical thinking that influences behavior (e.g., belief in clairvoyance, telepathy, or "sixth sense"...)
7. Curious George. He's an impulsive monkey with a pathological lack of attachment anxiety. Do you really want your child emulating this behavior? Hopefully your insurance plan covers stimulant medication.
8. The Espressione Café Retro. Why is an espresso machine sold through the Toys R Us website? If your child is already hooked on caffeine, a substance abuse problem is definitely in the future.
9. Tickle Me Elmo. Tickling a giggling furry creature is a sure-fire way to kick-start sexual fetishism.
10. Etch-a-sketch. Your child will spend hours working on a deeply meaningful artistic creation, only to have it wiped away at the slightest jostling. A psychologically devastating reminder of the ubiquity of loss and the ephemeral nature of existence. Also, no building sand castles on the beach.
Jared DeFife, Ph.D.