May 9, 2005

Forcing Rightie to be a Leftie

A Reader wrote:

Does anyone know of any research that shows the effects of forcing a "rightie" to become a "leftie", at least for sports? I didn't see this abuse happening to my oldest son by his father until it was too late - he's 14 now. He does all sports left-handed; everything else right-handed. He was trained to be a leftie as a toddler because of baseball - leftie pitchers are more valuable than righties.

Now I see the abuse beginning with my 4-year-old son, who writes, plays, eats, etc., with his right-hand, but dad has trained him to bat, throw, and catch (left-handed mitt) as a leftie. Dad even bought him left-handed golf clubs. (We're divorcing and I just found out about the leftie golf clubs today.)

I am very concerned about dad forcing these kids to become lefties for sports purposes. I know there's a lot of research on the Web about lefties having been forced to become righties; does this research apply in the opposite case? Do you know of any specific research regarding my situation?

Thank you!

11 comments:

  1. There is a lot of food for thought here.

    Sports obsession is big in our society. Sadly, many fathers behave in amazingly abusive ways toward their sons in an effort to force them to achieve in sports. On the other hand, there are many boys who genuinely love sports and are willing to work hard and make many kinds of sacrifices for it. There are many well-known sports figures who play left-handed, even though they are right handed in all other ways. I have no idea whether they were victims of abuse by parents and coaches, or whether they chose to learn this skill willingly because of their own desire to achieve.

    I'm no athlete, but I played sports when required to do so in school. I'm a lefty, but I learned to play righty because it was just easier to go along with everyone else. I didn't (and don't) perceive playing right-handed as an abusive situation. Of course, if some adult had beaten and intimidated me into submission, that would be abuse. But the adults who coached the teams probably didn't even know I was left-handed. They just taught what they knew.

    When I think of sports-related abuse, I think of the parent who forces a child to play sports when the child would rather be doing some other kind of activity. Or the parent who constantly screams and curses at his child for not being perfect. Or the parent who uses harsh punishments as an "incentive" to compel a sports performance. Those behaviors are abusive, no matter what the specifics of the situation may be. On the other hand, a parent who teaches a child the value of self discipline and hard work, who helps the child learn new skills and perform well in an encouraging atmosphere is simply being a parent.

    In any case, I would imagine that the research into the consequences of forced switching would apply to both lefties and righties. Lefties often were - and in many cultures still are - forced to give up the left hand entirely. That's what I think of when I think of forced switching. Righties have rarely faced that situation. Usually when they do make a complete switch it is because of an injury to the right hand which requires that they relearn everything with the left. (Former presidential candidate Bob Dole is an example).

    Another approach to take would be to look at the histories of professional athletes who are naturally right handed but who play left-handed. It would be interesting to find out if they feel this has caused problems in their lives.

    Good luck!

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  2. This is a topic I have been researching for 10 plus years. My own experience as a switched lefty who returned from right-handedness to left-handedness after 41 years of right-handedness started a series of events which will soon be chronicled in book form as THE FIFTH HAND - The Untold Story of Handeness Reversals, hopefully available in the next 3 to 4 months if you watch Amazon.com.

    Interesting to note that the swap from right to left is not that uncommon, although most people think of these conversions in terms of leftys being forced to accommodate to the right-handed world. The abuse of forced conversion is real and normally the training lasts for a lifetime whether the child is right forced left or left forced right. Some can handle the change with limited losses, whereas others can be truly devestated by the neurological interference that is caused by conversion.

    My guess is that the transition wasn't all that wonderful in terms of what was accomplished in athletics as laterality is now generally thought to be a consequence of genetic coding. Contrary to the beliefs of many people, alterations in that design come at a price which is paid by the switched individual in terms of reduced reaction speed, whole body coordination, etc etc etc.

    The best part of your story is that the handwritting and other (academic) skills were left untouched which is a real blessing. Babe Ruth is an example of the other version of your story, since he played sports left-handed, but wrote (academic skills) using his right hand.

    A good book on this topic is CHOOSING SIDES (fiction) written by John Ritter which tells the story of a young lefty boy forced by his father to be right-handed. One thing is for sure, forced reversals are abusive whether the individual is forced to be right or left-handed because handedness and laterality is innate. The forced switch comes at a price varying with the individual and no, there isn't much in the way of research to date, but this is a topic that you will be hearing about in the future.

    Hope this helps!

    Samuel

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  3. It's interesting that the mother in the original message didn't notice the "abuse" until her older son was already 14 years old. Did she never go to his sports games or pay attention to the things he did? Or did she just not think it was a problem until she was facing divorce from the boy's father?

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  4. this is for Samuel.

    Is your book out yet? I was born a leftie and trained to be right handed by my grandfather. I've been trying to research more on this and also want to learn how to be left handed again.

    please post if you have more info.

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  5. For Samuel too.

    I would truly love information on your book too.
    I was born leftie, forced rightie too. Looking for more info on this phenomenon. (I believe they have an actual word for it, it's called parasinistral)

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  6. that's fairly stupid. It sounds like a failed marriage with the mom blaming the father using the argument of forced left handism. As far as personal growth goes it seems that teaching sports left handed would be a great way to expand a boys mind. I say that as a lefty who is forced to think about the differences of left and right handism every time i use a can opener, car, computer mouse, most knifes, most scissors, paper, eating, most guns....

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  7. I'm in the process of becoming a lefty. For some reason, I believe I was born lefty but whenever I tried to use my left-hand my perents made me do it right-handed. I want to use my left hand in everything. I play all sports left-handed. Baseball, Hockey, Football, all other sports. I write with my right and draw with my right. Does anybody know a good technique or site to train yourself to be a lefty?

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  8. I guess a lot of us were forced righties.

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  9. When I was around 18, I found out that I was born left handed. My mother told me that when I was taught to write at school that they tied my left hand behind my back until I could right with my right hand.

    I am naturally left footed when it comes to things like football, and now that I know that I should be left handed I want to go back to being a leftie.

    I was born in 1971 and am currently 39, and when I do sometimes tell people about naturally left handed they often comment that they thought that this sort of thing was stopped in the dark ages. It didn't and I hope that it has completely stopped now.

    Apparently I suffer from typical symptoms of being switched which are a terrible lack of direction - I cant read maps or follow them, I am pretty much dyslexic, cant fill out forms etc.

    I wish that there had been more information on this sort of thing when I was younger as I completely failed every exam at school, gaining a whopping 9 unclassified results, when I am not a stupid person.

    This has made me work harder in life and I have achieved a lot because of this, so it has been a blessing in disguise in some cases.

    I now look forward to being a leftie again and am going to try very hard to start in earnest and write left handed again, it might straighten out my brain a little.

    Hope this helps anyone else who has been in a similar position, what I have read about this recently has really helped me. It seems that I am not alone which is very nice to hear.

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  10. I'm 69 years old and like a lot of others was a lefty at birth, made to become a righty. I'm just wondering if at this stage in my life it's worth trying to switch back to being a lefty. Does anyone have any experience with this in a senior?

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  11. i am 42 and was forced to be a righty. i get lost ALL THE TIME...even if i have been to the place before. i also have math "issues". has anyone found any studies out there about this?

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