Marita Moloney
Marita Moloney

15.11 19 Jun 2021


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On this week's 'Parenting' segment on the Moncrieff show, one listener sought advice on what to do about their three-year-old who has a tantrum every time she has to wear shoes.

Joanna Fortune, a psychotherapist specialising in child and adult psychotherapy, offered some guidance.

Listener question

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Our three-year-old refuses to wear shoes. Every time we try to put them on she has a tantrum.

We've tried so many things to make it an easier process but she just seems to have a mental block about it all.

It's grand in this good weather but a nightmare in the rain. And it also means we are using the buggy a lot more than we would like.

Joanna Fortune's advice

"How amazing this age group are at asserting their independence. This one, you could say, here's an example of a power struggle, but yet I'm going to stay curious about it because I wonder is there a sensory experience to the shoes that she is uncomfortable with because it's when she's putting them on that she's having the tantrum.

"Again I was curious, you say it's grand that she's barefoot at the moment but in the bad weather it's a nightmare. I'm kind of thinking, would she not even wear wellies? You know loads of small children don't want to wear a restrictive shoe but they're happy to plod around in wellies hail, rain and shine because they can pull them on and off themselves, they're spacious, they tend to be a looser fit.

"I would be curious here about what kind of shoe it is. First of all, don't make a big issue out of this as best you can. For example, you might let your toddler pick their own shoe, wait until it's time to get new shoes and let them pick a type of shoe they want or try on lots of types in the shop. Even at home if you've got different types, be it a slipper, a welly, a runner and a shoe, let them pick what type of one they want to wear.

parenting File photo. Credit: congerdesign from Pixabay

"In general, when children struggle with this, I would always say, go with soft soles, rather than the hard ones, because they're literally more comfortable. Go with straps over laces because laces can feel really tight and almost hurt their little feet if they're not comfortable in them, just don't let it be a battle, offer them some choice. The other thing I'm going to do is suggest you play with shoes, get a doll that has shoes or do some sort of cutting up with a sock to makeshift a shoe-looking device that she can put on and pull off and play with that.

"A couple of other games you could do as well is sit on the floor, put your feet and her feet and someone else's feet under a blanket and over the blanket, and reach under the blanket and squeeze a foot and guess whose foot it is. You could also play the shoe race: you put everyone's shoes in one corner and you mix them all up and you guys have to run over, find your shoes first, put them on and run back to where you started and see who wins. The side note is, let the child win.

"The other thing I have found really effective is walking on kisses. Put the idea in her head that good things happen when you walk on kisses. You put a kiss on the end of her foot and then you have to put the shoe on really quick to get the kiss in there so she's actually walking around on a kiss. she might reject that outright, she might be into it. The way you'll know is if none of this works, I would be curious is this a sensory experience and could you get a wider, looser fitting shoe, a softer-soled shoe, play around with that."

Main image: File photo. Credit: PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay 

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