October 11, 2007

Stay with left or start with right?

A Reader wrote:


Hi,
My son is 8 years old and I don't know if he is left handed or right handed. He writes with his left hand and does everything else with his right hand. His writing is sloppy and slow. He is very talented in math and he is at his level in reading. I asked his doctor for advice and his doctor told me to start training him to write with his right hand. So I tried and he complained it's too difficult. When he writes he angles his wrist so he can see what he writes, this bothers me because I'm afraid he might have wrist problems in the future. I don't mind if he is a lefty because I have a sister who is left handed and she is doing well in college. What should I do? Train him to write with his right hand or let him continue writing with his left hand?

54 comments:

  1. If he is more comfortable using his left hand to write then you should just let him do it. Forcing him to write with his write hand would only add stress to his life, and at 8 years old, he does not need that. If angling his wrist is going to cause damage to the wrist, he would be feeling it already. I would be more worried about the emotional damage that he will suffer for the rest of his life by being forced to write with his right hand.

    ReplyDelete
  2. If he is angling his wrist to see what he writes, it's probably because the paper is at the wrong angle. See the article "writing left" (in the side menu under "pages") for an example of how to correctly angle the paper for a lefty.

    ReplyDelete
  3. If he prefers writing with his left hand then teach him with his left hand, because if someone is taught to write with their opposite hand they have a high risk of developing numerous learning disabilities and medical conditions.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Let him write however it feels most naturally to him. Perhaps the reason he writes so slowly is that he is trying to write more neatly. I know from personal experience how humiliating it is to have adults overly focus on your handwriting. While I am neither left-handed nor dyslexic, I write with what is referred to as dyslexic grip. My 4th grade teacher and my mother made me practice my handwriting and pencil holding outside of class, but to no avail. I just felt worse for being singled out from all my classmates. Although my handwriting improved with age (I'm 22), I still hold my pencil the same way. The only time it bothers me is on long, writing-intensive exams - at the end my hand starts aching. I believe that this happens to most people after 90 minutes of furious writing, though!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'm a lefty and so is one of my children. I think it's wrong to force a child to write with the hand they're not comfortable with. My grandmother and several other older people I've met were forced as children to write with the right hand. Handedness is genetically encoded in a person and therefore, in my opinion, a person should be able to do what comes natural. My brother and I both have a "hook hand" which is very common in leftys and has never caused any problems.

    ReplyDelete
  6. It's best to actually train your child using right hand to write instead of his left. However, it should be ok to still let him use his left hand to write if he's REALLY stessed up. Why I'm saying this is that there are certain reports published by professional doctors stating that long-term left handers tend to slightly raise the risk of psychotic mental illnesses such as schizophrenia. That's why the doctor told you to start training him to write with his right hand. Try to let him write with his right hand when he's free and stress-free so that he will not be stressed-up when he's using his right hand to write. Good luck.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Im a lefty, and if i was forced to write with my right hand it would feel awkward. If he's meant to write with his left then let him, it will not affect him in anyway what so ever. Im doing just fine, it shouldnt cause any medical condition at all, its only being left handed!!!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I had a similar experience, but I was much younger. My grandmother made me write with my right hand when I was five. I can usually do everything equally well with either hand, unless it is something that I have just been accustomed to doing with one hand, over the other.

    Your son angles his wrist for multiple reasons: one, it is easier to see, and two, it helps to keep his hand from smearing the writing.

    Today, I handwrite so little that, although I usually wrote with my right hand, I can write equally well with either hand. My writing isn't really that bad, either.

    ReplyDelete
  9. People don't ever seem to know how to teach lefties to hold pencils, and write correctly. I am a lefty, and I hold my pencil oddly, and at an odd angle. I do it because it is what is most comfortable for me. I do everything else with my right hand because I was taught by right handed people, and my right hand got trained to do them!

    ReplyDelete
  10. I am a right hander who has learned to write with my left hand. Changing my left-hand grip helped a lot. Instead of placing the pen between my thumb and index fingers (as I do with my right hand), I hold the pen between my index and middle fingers. I can concentrate more on moving the pen to form letters with this grip because it requires less effort to hold the pen steady.

    I think you should teach your child to write with his right hand, but he should retain the ability to write with his left. Approach it as learning a new, potentially useful skill.

    Because writing with both hands is a useful skill, you should learn with your son. You can both spend time together writing in the evenings about what you've been doing or thinking or reading. Then discuss what you wrote. Find out what he thinks about what you wrote. Tell him what you think about what he wrote (but try not to lecture). Make it enjoyable.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Just let him do what feels most natural. I was a "lefty" until I entered college. The lack of left-handed desks made writing with my right hand feel most natural. 20 years later I still write with my right hand but do everything else with my left!

    ReplyDelete
  12. I don't see a problem with left-handed writing. Actually left-handed people are often smarter in thinking process; If you look at the top level CHESS PLAYERS, you'll see that a lot of them are left-handed.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Hi! I too am left handed and write at a very strange angle. I am 18 and doing fine! No wrist problems. I'm doing well in school, and don't think my left handedness holds me back in any way. I think you should let him do what he feels most comfortable with, I don't see any need to force him to write with his right hand.

    ReplyDelete
  14. You should definitely allow your son to continue to write left handed. I have similar actions to your son in that I write lefty, but play guitar right handed. It's totally normal and does not cause any damage at all, in fact its quite convenient.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I'm left-handed and I'm very glad that no one tried to force me to write with my right hand. You should let your son write with whatever hand is comfortable for him.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Great web-site. I can throw a ball, and write with both my right and left hands. What's weird though, is that my right hand is stronger than my left.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Please, please, please, let him write the way it comes naturally. I write lefty and do lots of other things righty; it's nothing to worry about. If he's doing fine in school and isn't showing any negative signs other than slightly sloppy writing, let things progress naturally. You don't want to create a problem where none exists, after all.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Let him develop his skills naturally; trying to force him to use a hand that he doesn't use naturally will only be frustrating for you and him both. I am predominantly right-handed - I write, draw, etc. right-handed, but for some reason that I have never figured out, I hold my fork with my left hand. I just developed that way. It won't cause your son to be in any way less productive in society. Best of luck!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Musical training is another great technique for helping young children explore their handedness and gain more competence working with their 'weaker' hand while promoting two-hand cooperation. The piano, for example, requires the coordination of both hands and can allow a child to practice dexterity while providing instant feedback (via sound). This is a fun way to ease a child into using the other/either/both hands while learning a new skill that also promotes dual logical/creative thinking.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Does your doctor have a well used set of leeches and trepanning drills in his office? I only ask because his advice is right out of the dark ages!

    Forcing a lefty to use his right hand is a waste of time and likely to make him feel there is something wrong with him.

    Using the left hand doesn't raise the risk of someone becoming schizophrenic. According to only one study there is a slight link between schizophrenia and a gene controlling handedness. A lefty would have this slight link even if they didn't use their left hand.

    Finally, as a third grade teacher I can say that righties can have awful handwriting, as well as the need for good penmanship is less and less in this age of computerized everything. And guess who has the most used keys on a keyboard right at their dominant hand fingertips...lefties!

    ReplyDelete
  21. I grew up with the same writing issue as your son and some other people who have left postings on this site. Like him and them I am not a true left handed person. I write with my left hand, I paint and draw with my left hand. On the opposite end of the spectrum I throw darts, baseballs and footballs with my right hand. Somewhere in the middle I am ambidextrous with using eating utensils, boxing and catching. The bottom line is that̢۪s just the way my brain is wired. You will no doubt find something like this in many left handed people. But to get back to the writing thing it has always been my preference to use my left hand.

    When I was in grade school Nuns tried to force me to write with my right hand and it was so frustrating to me and caused me so much grief that my parents got involved and made them back off. (I will always respect my parents for that. I was able to just be myself and concentrate on other scholastic matters at hand.)

    I did have the same kind of bent hand writing style when I was about his age, but I can attribute some of that to the strict teachers I had. The Nuns had us using pencils to practice our writing with and would chew people out pretty good for leaving smudges or smears on their work. (The pencil and erasable pens are a left-handed writers natural enemy.)
    Part of the reason for the curved wrist writing of mine was because I did not want to drag my hand thru the writing and risk getting yelled at. That is how I wound up writing like that, because with that extreme curve in your wrist your hand is above the writing itself.
    I did get a sore wrist from time to time when writing a lot but over the years my wrist did straighten out on its own. I think some of the sore wrist part came from the fact that I would push down so hard with writing instruments that you could look three pages inside a notebook and see what I wrote from the indentations.
    If you were really concerned about the curvature of the wrist you could possibly get him something like a left handed bowling glove to practice writing with at home. (This would hold the wrist straight for more proper form without interfering with the fingers. (This is just an Idea; I have never tried it before myself.)

    By the time your son gets out of school he will find that there is not a great deal of handwriting involved with most occupations. We are now in a digital world where typing skills are more crucial then handwriting.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I think that you should let your son stay writing with his left hand. If that is what he is comfortable doing, then why change it now? And really, in the real/working world, how much writing do you actually do? Just let him be comfortable with it!

    ReplyDelete
  23. Well, practice makes perfect. There are people who learned to write with both the left and the right hand. Why not give it a try?

    ReplyDelete
  24. I'm a lefty with most things, but I've always thought it would be interesting to teach myself to write right-handed just to try and be more ambidextrous, and just see how it would go. I am not very good at making myself actually get around to doing things, so I have yet to spend more than a few minutes trying it.

    I would think it should be fine to try and get him to learn to write with his right hand, but you should continue to have him work on writing with his left. If he really doesn't want to write with his right, there is no need to force it, but it could help him to learn to use both hands. Make it light and fun, not forced, and it should be a good experience. You could have him alternate writing sentences or paragraphs with each hand, as a possible approach.

    ReplyDelete
  25. We should not expect our children to be perfect or to necessarily follow the norms of society. There's no way to be sure what damage might occur if a parent tries to reverse the handedness of their child or if it will even work. According to the book Hidden Handedness, mentioned in this blog, the author was forced to be right-handed but reverted back to left-handedness as an adult.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Hi...

    My advice is to have your sister show him how to write with his left hand. I am left handed, and my writing was absolutely atrocious until I was in my late teens/early twenties.

    Best of luck,

    Andrew

    ReplyDelete
  27. Don't worry about it. I'm left handed and my writing is pretty poor, but I spend a lot more time typing at work.

    ReplyDelete
  28. I used to write with both hands as a child, and was eventually forced to write with my right hand. My left is still my dominant hand, but I write with my right hand to avoid the left-handed smear that happens every time with the way I write. Maybe I should try to do mirror writing with my south paw?

    ReplyDelete
  29. Let your son write with whichever hand he's more comfortable. This website alone (without any clinical research to back it up) proves that there's no correlation between handedness and achievement (or not) in school. Changing the angle of his paper will probabaly correct his awkward wrist positioning. Although if it doesn't, don't worry too much about tendonitis or anything else. My mother has been holding her wrist awkwardly to write left-handed for nearly 70 years and has had no adverse effects.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Please let him continue with his left hand. My poor dad was changed to a "righty" when he was young. He insisted that I stay a "lefty" if that's the way I was. I always wondered what problems he faced to be so insistant that I stay left.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Don't force your child to switch hands for writing. My father was switched to his right hand while in school in the 1950s. Although he can write with both hands, his "leftie" signature is much more fluid than his "rightie" signature.

    ReplyDelete
  32. When I was in third grade my teacher made me stay in at recess to write right-handed. She thought I was faking being left-handed because my penmanship was so sloppy. My parents were opposed to my being forced to write unnaturally so I did not become a righty. Today I am a straight A college student, but my penmanship has not improved much since third grade.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Oh, I wouldn't worry about it too much. I curve my wrist when I write and have been doing so since I was very young; I'm 20 now. I would just let him do his own thing for a while still, he's very young. If it's still a problem in the future, then... well I'm not sure. But I do think it will probably pass or not become a problem!

    ReplyDelete
  34. Hi,

    Don't worry about it too much because it's not matter of worry. I saw many children who were left handed and they are very successful in many fields like writing, medical, and technology. I am also lefty and I am a software developer, I'm achieving my all dreams in my life.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Thanks to those lefties out there who commented on other activities completed with your right hands--a point brought up by the original poster. I've been questioning my five year old daughter's handedness lately as well since she writes with her left, but does many other activities with her right. Since her writing is less refined than where she should be at this point, I was afraid that I had trained my rightie to be a leftie--the opposite of what usually happens, huh? Thanks for the info lefties!

    ReplyDelete
  36. Born left, now right!November 17, 2007 at 12:51 PM

    I am 20 years old and I was born left handed. I was taught to write right-handed when I started using my left hand at a young age. I write with my right hand, but do many things with both hands -- for example eating. I have no problems and am in college and doing great!

    ReplyDelete
  37. I have a 2.75 year old granddaughter. She is starting to show hand dominance preference. Is there any scientific evidence showing teaching a young brain to be ambidextrous is not in the child's best developmental interest?

    ReplyDelete
  38. Gail -- I'm not entirely clear on what you mean by teaching a child to be ambidextrous. Of course, there are many activities that require or encourage the use of both hands. The left hand and the right hand work together in typing, for example. But most people seem to have a strong inclination to use one hand rather than the other in areas that require skill or strength.

    Ambidexterity probably seems like a good idea, but it just doesn't come naturally to most people. My expectation would be that forcing someone to try to be ambidextrous would be just as frustrating as forcing them to switch hands altogether. Both involve requiring the child to use the hand that nature didn't choose for her.

    ReplyDelete
  39. I'm 14 and I hook my hand to write so I can see what I am writing and I also do mostly everything else with my right hand. I've never had wrist problems and I would hate it if anyone tried to make me write with my right hand...

    ReplyDelete
  40. Hey. I was a lefty until I was in the third grade and my teacher made me switch. I am a senior in high school and this year just went back to my left hand. It feels so much more natural, and even though my handwriting isn't perfect yet it's still better then it was when I was a righty. Golf, soccer, baseball -- all lefty. Damn that third grade teacher! :)

    ReplyDelete
  41. In the 21st century, it's hard to imagine any competent doctor seriously recommending that a left-handed child be forced to switch. Right handed people seem to have a very bizarre view of left-handers. IT'S NOT A PROBLEM! If your child's eyes were a different color from yours would you force him to wear colored contact lenses? (Well, maybe some people would, it's a crazy enough world.)

    ReplyDelete
  42. This is hilarious. The child has bad handwriting, and the doctor thinks that somehow it will get better if he is forced to use the wrong hand? Think about it. There are lots and lots of right-handed people with bad handwriting. Would anybody suggest that switching them to the left hand would somehow make things better?

    ReplyDelete
  43. We intervened and made our daughter (11 years old now) use her right hand instead.

    She has weak motor skills and lack of concentration thus doing badly in school.

    When talking to a friend, she suggested it could be due to convergence problem due to our intervention to switch her over.

    Now, we encourage her to use her left hand and back to basics.

    We wish we did not intervene at all!

    ReplyDelete
  44. Let him write with his left hand. Try and think about this. I'm left-handed, and I find it extremely difficult to write with my right hand. And after a while (when I try to write with my right hand), my hand hurts so much, and my writing is so sloppy. Try and write with your left hand, it will hurt if you're right handed. So that's how your son would feel if you made him write with his right hand. Please consider.

    ReplyDelete
  45. Hi, I am a righty, my 5th child a girl, is left handed. I LOVE IT!!! Until this year she was like your son. She would write with her left hand, she would throw, catch, eat with her right hand. But I can clearly see that she is different than the other kids, in a good way. She thinks differently than the other kids, she gets really good grades, and she LOVES to write, draw, paint. She is so creative. I helped her learn to write properly with her left hand like we were taught to write with our right hands. Angle the paper properly and set her hand straight. She is 10 now and has beautiful writing and sits with paper like a right handed person would only on the left side.

    ReplyDelete
  46. My 8 year old son has the same issues as the original poster. He writes left and does everything else right. His handwriting is awful, by far the worst in his class. He doesn't like to write although he's very verbal and everyone else in our family writes. Everything he tries to do with his left hand is just clumsy and his hand-eye coordination using his left is poor. I wouldn't even consider urging him to write with his right if he was comfortable with his left but there's no evidence that he is. I'm afraid a decision made when he was three based on how he fed himself will delay or prevent him from developing a love of writing. Thoughts?

    ReplyDelete
  47. Personally I would be pissed if someone made me switch, I'm 23 and I kind of remember a teacher trying to recruit me to the other side. I'm artistically inclined and proud to be a lefty. I feel it's always been my creative secret weapon. My main downfall is I'm slow not mentally just when it comes to doing. In the first grade we read a book with a bull character in it, so the teacher lead the charge in picking on me and named me after him. From then on I was known as "Ferdinan the Lazy Bull"...
    but..that has nothing to do with left-handedness, thought I get it off my chest.

    ReplyDelete
  48. I had very similar problems at that age, I still do, nearly 10 years later. All through elementary school, I hated to write, because it was slow, sloppy, and I couldn't seem to get my ideas onto the pages as fast as they came into my mind. In late elementary school, a teacher suggested I start writing poetry to help me get ideas from my brain to the paper. I found it worked wonders. I now write poetry like mad, and can write almost as fast as some of my righty friends(very fast writers) and keep up with my AP English teacher. My actual handwriting hasn't improved much over the years, but when I started writing on college rule paper, it helped quite a lot. Try getting your son to write smaller, or on a smaller rule paper. Ask him why he writes so slow, find out if he's simply trying to write neatly, or if he's having trouble keeping his hand in speed with his mind. Try to get him to mirror write, so that if you hold his paper to a mirror, you can read it in the mirror.

    Whatever you do, switching him to a righty will only decrease his speed. Time and experience will increase his speed, and the wrist hook, it shouldn't cause any trouble.

    ReplyDelete
  49. I believe your son is mixed-handed, also known as cross-dominance, being able to do different tasks better with different hands. For example, mixed-handed persons might write better with their left hand but throw a ball more efficiently with their right hand, so do not force him to change hands but show him how to use both hands and let him decide which one is more comfortable for him. Good luck.

    ReplyDelete
  50. I am right handed and I angle my wrist and hold my pen oddly. I think this style of writing is finally starting to catch up with me. My hand hurts whenever I write and I think I'm developing carpal tunnel. My advice is to make sure that if your son learns to write with his right hand, teach him to do it correctly. Some teachers tried in vain to fix my handwriting when I was around his age and now, regrettably, I am suffering the consequences.

    ReplyDelete
  51. I'm left-handed and I don't think there's anything wrong with that. You should let your child continue doing what's most comfortable. Don't worry about his wrist, if there was any problem, he would have sorted it out himself or told you. I'm sort of like your son.
    My left hand is way weaker than my right, but I still write and do some other things with my left. My right hand is stronger and more efficient in doing certain tasks like playing the piano. However, I still feel more comfortable with my left hand. :] good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  52. Teach him how to write correctly with the left hand. The doctor saying you should make him right handed is dumb. He's 8. You can't expect his writing to be that good. Mine ws the exact same way when I was 8, but it's fine now. And I was a pretty smart kid.

    ReplyDelete
  53. When I first started to learn how to write in elementary school the teachers forced us to write with our right hand. This was extremely difficult for me since I had always used my left but I got over it and now I can write with both hands, the fact of the matter is that the teachers and administrators should not force children to use their right hand just so all the children can conform and fit in. I am now in college and can still feel the adverse effects of using my right hand when everything i do comes naturally to my left, I sometimes feel confused on things because I can't figure out which hand to use my dominant left, or my right which i've been taught to use since I was a kid.

    ReplyDelete
  54. Anonymous 2014-02-09
    I am 54 years man and I have used alwayes my left hand ,herby I like to write in the net ,my handwriting is very bad and I am shy to show the people my handwriting.I write like a 3 years old Child.I streted to use my right hand.Iwrite slowly but looks better.

    ReplyDelete

Unfortunately, a flood of spam has forced us to implement word verification and comment moderation, and to ban anonymous users. Spammers spoil the fun for everyone! If you are a real person, we appreciate your patience. If you are a spammer, kindly go to hell.