Some children just love to wiggle their toes -- they feel very constricted wearing tight shoes, and they yank them off whenever possible. Until recently, 5-year-old Alexander Morley, of Belton, Missouri, always begged his parents to go barefoot. "We'd simply tell him that he couldn't go outside the house without his shoes, and we let him pick which ones he wanted to wear," says his mother, Lynn. If he still kicked them off, she told him he'd have to be carried -- but she allowed him to go shoeless when he was at home and in the car.
Let your child know that you understand how much he dislikes shoes and that you wish he didn't have to wear them, but explain that going barefoot outside is dangerous because he could step on sharp objects or pick up icky germs, says Susan Stiffelman, a family therapist in Malibu, California. Let him pick his own shoes at the store, or bring home three pairs for him to choose from. Once he's made his selection, have him practice wearing them around the house, and try to associate shoes with a fun activity ("Let's put on our shoes and take a walk to the playground"). Help your child figure out what's wrong with the rejects: pinchy, tight, heavy? Hopefully, you'll eventually hit on a style he can live with, even if it's open-toed sandals or Crocs with socks when it's cold.