My 2 Year Old Has Shoe Issues!

Updated on April 09, 2009
P.G. asks from Nottingham, MD
12 answers

I have a 28 month old who will not wear nor try on another pair of shoes. He is currently wearing a pair of sneakers that have seen better days and if I get another pair of shoes near his feet he will scream and cry. I have tried to strong arm him into putting on a different pair and once I can wrestle them on his feet he refuses to walk. We have a couple special events coming up and I know those dirty old shoes are going to look ridiculous with his nice suit :( Does anyone have any tips or tricks?

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answers from Washington DC on

Have you tried getting the exact same pair? My oldest daughter did the same thing. She was in love with her princess shoes. Thankfully I found another pair on size larger. We just told her the shoes took a bath and now they are all clean. Another suggestion is to let him pick out a new pair. I know payless has some character shoes so try a pair with his favorite characters on them.

Good Luck!

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answers from Washington DC on

You are in a power struggle with your child that you cannot win. At around 2 yrs they start trying to be a bit independent. My suggestion is to wash the shoes in the washing machine at night to clean them up and let him wear them. Put another pair of shoes in his room but say nothing about them. Eventually he will tire of this and move on, but until then it's not worth fighting with a toddler over something unless it affects his safety or health.

About this age my son did the same thing but with food choices. I tried to fight it and the result was a disaster. This phase will pass if you don't make too big a deal about it.
Just my two cents!

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answers from Washington DC on

oh, i'm so relieved that (thus far anyway) you're not getting any 'you have to be the parent and take charge NOW!' responses! littles have so little input into their lives, and it's SO good for them to be allowed a say in some things. who knows why this is so important to him? but if it is, it's no use informing him that it's not a big deal. be glad that strong-arming doesn't work on him! you want a kid who can't be pressured that way! for the special occasion you could try an incentive of some sort (okay, bribe) but if he declines it, wash his old shoes and let him roll. my kids used to wear all sorts of weird stuff (and unlike many of the moms here i never fussed over wild hair colors or mohawks) and both are now doing great in college, have jobs, and have no trouble figuring out how to dress appropriately for any occasion.
relax, and look on this as the wonderful milestone/memory that it truly is!
:) khairete

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answers from Washington DC on

Shoe issues are sometimes about what feels good on your feet, but very often they are control issues. As kids grow up, parents need to gradually cede control over different realms of decision making. Here's where you have to choose your battles wisely. You have a short term "special events" issue, and then a long term "he really can't wear those to his highschool graduation" issue.
Is it really important that a two-year-old's shoes go with his suit? It certainly isn't for anybody who knows anything about two-year-olds, and who cares about the rest of the world? During "special occasions" there are enough other things that can make someone this age "lose it"--missed naps, weird food, strange people getting too close, parents busy talking with other adults, etc. I wouldn't advise starting the day with a meltdown over something as unimportant as shoes. Shoes, if they still fit, can be cleaned up reasonably well with leather cleaner and/or new laces. Let him "help" you clean up his shoes so he feels proud of himself. Then let him choose his footwear to go with his suit.
For the longer term, he will eventually grow out of those shoes and they will start to be uncomfortable and then he will want a shoe that is more comfortable for him. In the meantime, you might try talking about how people grow bigger and change as they grow. Find that book about the hermit crab that needs to find a new shell, or other stories about shedding old things and growing into new ones. These build the mental idea that growing and changing is a good thing. As you read stories, talk about the shoes in the pictures. When you get department store ads in your mail, flip through them with him naming things and making casual conversation about "This guy looks like he's ready for a baseball game. This guy's ready for a fancy party." Mention the shoes along with the other parts of the ensemble. Let him play with weird footwear, like oversized rainboots or daddy's running shoes or daddy's dress shoes. Giggle with him about those things. Let him choose which socks to wear. Let him put them on himself, with just enough help from mom or dad that he doesn't get frustrated. Tickle his toes. Play this little piggy. Do goofy stuff, like talking to his toes and pretending they talk back. Talk outloud about your own footwear choices. Hmm which shoes should I wear today? When it doesn't matter much, let him choose between two suitable options for you. Validate his choice. "Good idea!"
When my kids were this age, they sometimes fought about getting dressed until I woke up to the fact that they wanted to do it themselves! Just backing off and giving them some control (over things that it's okay for them to control) eliminated the conflict. Of course, letting them do it themselves takes more time, but it's way more fun than fighting with them.
For years my son refused to wear shirts with buttons. Somehow he grew up into a delightful and competent young man who likes his comfy clothes but knows how to dress for the occasion. If you model your decision making process and let him gradually assume responsibility for things that he can control, your son will learn how to make good choices as he grows. Enjoy!

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answers from Roanoke on

My son loves his dress shoes...because he can put them on himself! They are from Walmart, and are just black penny loafer looking shoes. The brand is George. I got them on clearance for $7-8. That was a while ago, but they carry that style alot. It can't hurt to try to get him to put them on himself! Say...look at these shoes! You can do it yourself! and if that doesn't work, try good old reverse psychology..."aww, I bet you can't put them on! Maybe mommy can wear them!" Sometimes works for mine, sometimes not! He is 34 months though! GOING ON TERRIBLE THREES! haha



answers from Norfolk on

My suggestion is first let him help you pick out shoes. Give him a few choices to chose from. Next when you get the shoes let him wear them out. Put them on and throw the old shoes out on your way out of the store. First he's getting to the age he wants him opinion heard. Next he's aware he has a choice you still have the old shoes don't give him the option. Take it away by throwing the old ones out. If his old ones still fit and you just want a nice pair than take them out of site so he thinks they are gone he will feel he has no choice but to wear the new pair. If you give in and let him have the old pair when he pitches a fit he will learn quickly he has a choice and he's chosen to wear the old pair and LOOK he won. Don't let him win. Than he will know you are the one on the controls and will do what you want in the future.



answers from Washington DC on

I had the same issue with my daughter .. the only thing that worked for us.. I took her to the shoe store and I let her pick out her shoes... it wasnt my choice ( the pair she picked out) but at least they were clean!
good luck and just so you know she is now 3 1/2 and we still have this issue



answers from Washington DC on

Been there. I have 2 suggestions. Get him another pair of comfy sneakers (black so they go with his suit or play). Put them on and take him out someplace fun (like the park). He may scream at first, but then he'll have fun and forget about it.

Or, just buy him the exact same shoes in the next size. If necessary, tell him you cleaned them.



answers from Washington DC on

Not sure if you're having trouble getting him to try them on in a store or if he is just having trouble putting on anything different (at home or store). My daughter had a major issue going to the store and letting a stranger touch her feet or even standing on the measuring thing. We finally ended up tracing her feet and cutting it out. The sales person was able to measure the foot print on the scale and figure out the size we needed. Then I put the shoes on her feet and she walked around... the whole time we were asking questions of the sales person like their name, favorite color, if they had kids, what their favorite food was. By the time we needed a quick foot squeeze to make sure they fit properly, she was usually relaxed enough to let it happen and the person could do what they needed to.

I can't even begin to explain to you how out of control she would get before we worked out this plan. She is a very calm and easy going child usually but she would scream hysterically and hide and kick, etc. It was really embarrassing and extremely frustrating. However, I decided to be happy with the fact that she was afraid of strangers, since the opposite could prove very worrisome. There is always a silver lining... sometimes you just have to look a little harder for it :)

Now she is almost 6 and she just went shopping for shoes the other day. She walked in and let the person touch her feet and use the measuring thing and had no problems at all... not to mention no stress. It was great. Don't worry, what ever the situation is for you, it will pass before too long. Hate to admit it, but ours lasted about 3 years. However, it was easier and easier as time passed and the less stressed I got, the better she did.

Hype him up about the shoes. Let him go to the store and play dress up. Find some fun Thomas slippers or huge rubber boots to walk around in. Try to make it a fun visit. Our shoe store gave out balloons which was a great reward for getting through the experience. You could offer that you are going to do something fun afterwards, like go to the park.

Good luck.



answers from Washington DC on

I wouldn't worry about it honestly. Kids, especially at your son's age, get wierd fetishes about their things. I'm sure anyone else with kids would understand. If anyone says anything, just tell them that he's at that stubborn age and he flat out refuses to wear any other pair of shoes so it's the old ones or barefoot. I really wouldn't stress over it. People are generally accustomed to seeing small kids wearing strange things because of behavior like this. Just let him wear the shoes until they fall apart or until they start hurting his feet, then give him a few choices and let him pick out his new shoes himself. This is really the kind of thing where you have to pick your battles.



answers from Charlottesville on

As the other lady suggested I would take him and let him pick out a pair (choices that you pre-approve). Depending on what he is wearing a suit for (some ones wedding, etc) then if necessary I would try to set him up with some type of reward (whatever he likes the most) if he wears the new shoes without a fight to the important event then he gets the predetermined award for good behavior.



answers from Washington DC on

I see three possibilities:

1) He may have had a "bad" (to him) experience with a pair of shoes other than his comfy favorites and now is locked in to only wanting his "good" shoes (common at his age). If this is the case, don't make a big issue out of it. Wait it out, don't fight. Let him wear what he wants until they no longer fit his feet, then throw away. Eventually, he will forget about the "bad" experience and forget about the "good" shoes, and you will be able to put any shoes on him you wish. Make shoe next pair of shoes is soft and has plenty of room to wiggle toes.

2) Or, the problem may have nothing to do with shoes, and is actually about control. Does this same thing happen with Dad or only with you? In general, is dad less interested in how he looks and doesn't fuss over clothes, while it is more important to you? (just asking, not criticizing in any way). How about if another child offers him a different pair of shoes? At his developmental age, control issues can come up. If it is about control, best not to fight him on it because won't help. Wait it out. Eveentually, his old shoes won't fit. Then you can get a variety of shoes for him to pick from and put on, because if this is a control issue, he will eventually want to put on his own shoes, himself. Wait it out, don't fight.

3) Or, he may be hypersensitive to tactile stimulation and really cannot tolerate any shoes other than his soft, comfortable ones. My daughter had this problem (starting around 2). Wouldn't wear socks unless they were inside out, wouldn't wear boots in the winter, wouldn't let anyone wash her hair or brush out the knots, etc. She eventually out grew it, maybe around 6 or 7 (she's 16 now). Your son can be evailuated by a health professional if you see a trend beyond the shoes.

Just my experience and opinions. You'll figure it out. Good luck!

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