26/05/2009 01:11 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

Ask Joanne - My Son Won't Take Off His Socks

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Tracey asks:

My 7-yr-old son has an issue with taking his socks off at school. This has
been going on since he was about 4 when he was made to take his socks off at
dancing class (hmm, maybe that was the problem!)

He is fine at home, at the swimming pool or the beach, it is just in a
school environment where it's met with screaming tantrums and point blank
refusal. I have spoken with his teachers, praised, threatened and bribed
him, but I can't seem to get to the bottom of the issue.

I am considering going to a child psychologist to see if I can resolve it. What do you think?

Hi Tracey

I really like the sound of your son, he must have great strength of character to stick with what he wants in the face of opposition.

Life can be tough when you're a small boy. You're told when to get up, where to go every day, what to wear when you get there, even what to eat. You have very little control over your day to day life, and so it's not surprising that you grab at any chance to be in control.

If it wasn't a health and safety issue for PE at school, I would be inclined to say: so what if he doesn't change his socks?

Maybe the best approach is to ignore it, and if he won't get changed he needs to sit at the side for PE. This will soon teach him that taking part is much more fun than having to miss out on a lesson. Have you agreed with his teacher on how to approach this?

He is also old enough to take on board that sometimes in life we have to do stuff that we don't always want to.

What is he most into now? What toy has he been bugging you for? I am not saying bribe him, but encourage his motivation by finding something that he wants more than he wants to continue this behaviour.

As you have discovered, you can't force him on this one, he has to want to do it. What would be a powerful enough pull?

He's not too old for a sticker chart, but don't make it just about the socks -- reward him for any good behaviour.

All children's behaviour is about gaining our attention. At the moment, by not taking his socks off he is attracting your focus. If you were to take him to a psychologist, he would succeed in bringing even more attention to this issue. By ignoring it, you will start to take the steam out of it.

Hope this helps, I wish you both well


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