July 02, 2015

Q: My 8 month old balls his toes up when I place socks and shoes on his feet and will keep his toes balled and then cry until I remove the shoe. My mom thinks there is some reason why he keeps his toes balled with shoes I think he just doesn't like wearing them and she wants me to have his feet checked. Should I or is it that he just doesn't want shoes on and if so how can I get him to keep them on without crying every since time

A: In the first place, I am not so sure that an 8 month old really needs to wear shoes--so perhaps you can postpone this challenge until he is a bit older and, let us hope, no longer bothered by shoes. Even if your 8 month old is walking around upright, he probably does not need shoes unless he is walking on a public sidewalk or dirt road. You can treat his feet pretty much as you treat his hands, and leave off the socks unless you are putting on mittens too. The main problem with bare feet is that the feet can get dirty outdoors or chilled on a cold floor. But neither of these are serious problems. Possibly your son would feel all right with socks, or outfits with feet, or soft slippers at this time. There is nothing to be gained by insisting on shoes right now.

There are a number of tots who have a problem with socks, shoes, labels at the back of shirts, and other clothing items. The child will often complain that it just "doesn't feel right!" A parent can take on and off the same sock several times, until it is finally "right." Such children may have lifelong personalities which are rather picky and particular--wonderful traits when you grow up to be a serious musician or famous scientist but rather hard on Mom while you are still a baby. On the other hand, most children are very eager to wear clothing like the grown ups do and their eagerness to put on eyeglasses just like Daddy is one of the ways that parents can gain a child's cooperation in the business of dressing properly. Your son is still too little to want to wear clothes like the big guys wear, so he probably experiences the shoes as an uncomfortable invasion of his personal space with no benefits to him at all.

I doubt that there is anything wrong with your son's feet, or wrong with your son either. I think I would try to put off the shoe issue for as long as you can. You might start with socks (some have nice rubber anti-skid ribs on the soles) and soft sandals as the weather warms up, and work gradually from there.

Elizabeth Berger MD

Child Psychiatrist and author of "Raising Kids with Character"

Answered by Dr. Elizabeth Berger