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The effects of making a left-hander write right-handed

Natural left-handers should always be left to develop in their own way and be allowed to write left-handed if that is their choice.   Forcing them to change hands and write right-handed can have very bad effects in later life as well as being traumatic at the time and ruining their handwriting!

Brain organisation - left and right hemispheres and hand controlThe dominant writing hand is not just a physical thing to do with controlling a pen but a mental thing to do with the way the brain is organised and where certain functions occur.   The brain is “cross-wired” to the body so the left handed side of the brain controls the right hand side of the body and the right side of the brain controls the left. Changing the hand used for writing causes great confusion in the   brain and can have a lot of knock-on effects.

Here are some articles we have written on this subject:

These are some of the effects people have reported to us from being forced to change their writing hand as a child:
  • Bad handwriting
  • Bed-wetting
  • Stuttering
  • Nail biting
  • Shyness and being withdrawn
  • Defiance and provocative behaviour
  • Poor concentration
  • Bad memory
  • Reading difficulties
  • Problems with spelling
  • Neurotic personality
  • Physical tiredness

These problems will not definitely occur in all people who have their writing hand changed and of course they can arise due to many other causes, but there does seem to be an association between all of these issues and a forced change of writing hand.   Our correspondents have also mentioned being bullied at school as a result of these effects.

Forcing a left-hander to change and use their right hand for writing is a very bad thing to do – please don’t do it!

We received an email recently with a personal story that really shows the serious impact this can have on people and made us think about this again.   It is included in its entirety below:

From: Tonya
Subject: My mom forced me to write right-handed

I was looking up this subject because I’ve been trying to teach my right-handed son to tie his shoes, and since I tie my shoes left-handed I’m not much help to him. I also eat with my left, and when I was in gymnastics my left side was my dominant side.  Yet I write right-handed, and can recall my mother snatching pencils out of my left hand and saying, “No! We write with our RIGHT–see? That rhymes. Use your right hand!”  I remember it feeling weird, but I did as I was told.  I had a bed-wetting phase but always thought it was due to other things, such as being angry with my parents for other matters but in our household children were not permitted to express anger.  I’ve suffered anxiety and bouts of clinical depression my whole life–and PPD after the birth of my 1st baby–and until reading articles about it today never thought it could all go back to being left-converted. Wow. As an adult, I do get mentally tired easily, and fatigued sometimes for seemingly no reason.  As a child I did not stutter, but as an adult I find speaking very difficult–I can write well and easily express what I want to say in writing….but I search for words when speaking and get all tongue-tied. I’m very   introverted and soooo socially awkward.  Oh and I flunked out of typing class in high school! Hahaha.  Never could play the piano, either.  So, after reading some articles, I can see a connection, for myself, between the studied effects and my own conversion to writing right-handed. Definitely.

Your Left handed Child eBook For more information on this and all aspects of being left handed as a child and how to help left-handed children get past some of the basic challenges they will face with writing, cutting and other activities at school, download Lauren’s book “Your Left-Handed Child”.Also covers:* Development of left-handedness
* Pre-school development
* Strategies for everyday life
* Left-handedness in school
* Sport
* Music
* Practical and educational resources

Download Lauren’s book “Your Left-Handed Child”

Please add any of your own experiences or links to related material as comments below.

We would also be very interested in your comments on changes in the other direction – natural right-handers being forced to write left-handed as a result of physical problems such as an accident or stroke that means the cannot use their right hand (assuming nobody would have the audacity to change a right-hander to write left-handed just because of prejudice, religious views or some sense of what they should do to be “normal”!).



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171 comments on “Changing Left to Right
  1. Brenda Manning says:

    In Mass. I was forced in the first grade to use right hand. left hand was tied behind back and I was hit with a ruler. the other kids in reaction to the teacher bullied and shamed me I had no good socail interaction and was punished for crying. Indiana in 2nd and 3rd. I was beaten and paddled for using my left hand forced to stand at the blackboard and write right handed abc over and over, I was shamed and had a dunce cap put on me and I sat in the corner, this continued through 5th grade, i was bullied and made fun of kicked and hit by the other children. I felt so alone and ashamed. My mother put me working in the lunch room in 5th grade to help pay for siblings lunchs at school. It took me off the playground. i never told my mom. I was so ashamed she would not accept me either. Then in 5th grade it became worse, I took a test with the other kids and wa told I had IQ of 167, the teachers called a special assembley in cafeteria and I was called up on stage with my mom and dad and proclaimed the schools first genious, All hell broke lose after that. It became hell I was afraid to go to school. This interfered in my whole life. I do not feel accepted by other people. I am still picked on socially.

  2. gerry says:

    I was forced to write with my right hand by my father, it was very traumatic for me…however when I played sports nobody told me what hand to use and thank god that never happened. when I played sports growing up I felt a freedom that was truly amazing….

  3. DeeAnne McGhee says:

    Hi fellow lefties,
    I read the current newsletter, especially with regard to the kiddos starting a new school year. I wish all those great tools had been available to me starting school in the USA in the mid 1950s. I am in the middle of helping to purchase school supplies for a kindergartner, two 1st graders and a 5th grader in my family. All are righties except one of the 1st graders who is ambidextrous, but it dawned on me that even if they WERE lefthanded, here in my community all those great left-handed items would not be allowed! All supplies that are purchased by the families for use in the classroom are pooled together and shared (of course they would be allowed in their own homes). We haven’t made much progress after all in accommodating lefties in the classroom in the last 50 years!!

  4. CB says:

    In kindergarten, the teacher tried very hard to switch me. At the time I didn’t realize there was a stigma to being left-handed (this was in 1973). My parents didn’t care what hand any of their four children did their writing with and no one ever commented in our home that I wrote differently so I had no idea until kindergarten that I was doing anything that anyone could see or think was bad. I remember kind of being annoyed but trying for a few days. I went home after a week or so and told my parents I didn’t see why I couldn’t use my left because my right was sloppy and couldn’t hold the pencils or crayons as well as my left could. My mother made sure they were in fact trying to switch me and then she and my Dad went straight to the school and raised cain. I remember they came home and said “Okay, the teacher will NOT ever make you switch hands again”. That was terrific because it actually had made my righthand cramp to hold the pencil but they had to explain why she tried to do it in the first place! I would have never known some people used to think it was bad but for that incident. I wound up writing and cutting with my left hand but I can do everything else ambidextrous. I can even write and cut a bit righthanded, it’s a bit loose but legible. Weirdly enough, I broke my left hand rather badly at age 12 and while the cast was on I could write righthanded as good as pre-accident left handed. As soon as the cast was off, within 2 or 3 days, I slowly switched back and remained left handed until last year when I had a bad car accident and again had messed my left arm up severely and it happened again. No clue how or why it happened but grateful it did. As I slowly recovered, I did the same weird shift back over to left handed again. Years after the school system tried to switch me, I had two children of my own and made sure to never try in any way to make them be right or left handed. I just supplied writing and/or coloring stuff with books and paper and let them use whatever they wanted. My eldest is a righthanded and my youngest is left-handed. Their fathers were both right handed as were all four grandparents and all aunts and uncles, cousins and so forth. My daughter and I are the only lefthanders in roughly 60 family members.

  5. Pilot says:

    As a mother and a teacher with a masters may I say this letter doesn’t do a lot to sway me. She said, “in our household children were not permitted to express anger”. This is more likely the case for her issues now as well as the bedwetting issues.

  6. Maggie Knapp says:

    I am a natural lefty & the only one out of 3 generations of my family! I write with my left hand & my left side is the dominant side. When I was about 8 my grandma suggested it would be good to be able to use both hands equally so I started practising writing with my right. I am now 57 & ambidextrous, but cannot write for very long with my right hand. I’m pleased she did this as although I’m proud of being left handed, it’s very practical being able to use both hands. I’ve never experienced any problems but this could be because it wasn’t forced on me but was something I wanted to try & do. Although I use my left hand for using scissors & knives I can honestly say I’ve never had a problem using right handed implements with my left hand. The only problems I encountered were using cheque books & pen nibs (we had to use fountain pens at school) so my mum bought me left handed nibs! I like being a lefty as I like being different, which is also probably why I like being ambidextrous too!!

  7. Catherine says:

    I read somewhere that left handed people were probably one of a set of twins where the other child had died early on in the pregnancy. I wonder if this might be the case as I have always felt I should have had a twin.
    My problems were not with handwriting as my mother made sure my teachers knew I was a lefty and she did not want them to try and change me, since she saw the suffering her brother went through. My problem came with telling the time. I often used to sit with my mother as she tried to teach me, but I just couldn’t grasp it. What made things worse was being sent out of the classroom into the corridor to report what time it was on the clock out there. I used to be so upset as the numbers meant nothing to me so I would end up guessing and then suffer the indignity of being shown up in front of my classmates.
    My three children are all right handed, but it is possible my grandson may be a lefty.

  8. Alex Gordon says:

    I started school in 1957 and was left handed. The school had a policy where it was deemed you were backward if you were left handed and from day one if I tried to write throw or do anything with my left hand I got a smack over the hand with a ruler. As a result I write right handed I am totally mixed with racquet sports eg tennis and squash right handed table tennis and badminton left handed. I can only throw left handed. I was interested to read the list of possible effects of being forced to change from the use of the dominant hand. As far as I am aware, apart from hating school for the first 5 years and doing anything I could to avoid it, I only suffer from bad memory, poor concentration and physical tiredness. My father was left handed and forced to change, my youngest daughter is also left handed but happily we live in more enlightened times and she was allowed to develop naturally.

  9. Jim says:

    I am left-handed when I started school my aunt who was a teacher told my Dad that Jim is left-handed . Do not let the Nuns change him.
    My dad went to school and told the nuns not to change me.
    I was called out a lot by the nuns but I learned to live with being left-handed. A friend of mine was turned by the nuns ,this person has had several mental problems.

  10. Jennifer Beattie says:

    I came across a way for a left-handed person to teach a right-hander – just sit facing them and work ‘like a mirror’. I seem to remember hearing how golfer Phil Mickelson started by watching a right-handed tutor and ‘mirroring’ his moves; just so happens he’s my favourite American golfer anyway!

  11. Sean says:

    This is amazing to me that there is still a nudge or push to right-handedness in handwriting, etc. in classrooms.

    In the very early 1970s when I was in second grade and we learned penmanship, my school teacher took the time to /support my left-handed writing and adapt the instructions, which I’m sure she did for any other left-handers in class.

    I remember her clearly and in fact, had very good penmanship. I wonder now if that was considered progressive or forward-thinking 40+ years ago?!

  12. Jim Renderman says:

    Yes, I remember. I attended a Catholic parochial school, located in Chicago for grades 1, 2 and 3. In third grade I was taught by a Nun (now don’t get me wrong, there are many terrific and charitable religious orders, it is just that this experience was isolated-I hope) In this parish, Being left-handed was prophesied as having the numbers 666 tattooed on my forehead. Anyway, everything described in Tonya’s passage, sans the PPD, happened to me, including picking on me for anything, doing things like dumping my desk because I had loose paper and always, always complaining about my cursive handwriting. I chose to print because I could not handwrite legibly, with a pencil. I too am diagnosed with clinical depression, I am shy and introverted, and a profound underachiever who wound up attaining a Masters – Post Graduate Degree form DePaul University in Chicago (A Catholic institution. Oh the irony!

  13. John Law ll says:

    I’ve been proud of being left handed. I had a teacher tell me she would fail me if I didn’t start using my right. The only reason she knew who wrote it was my name. So one time a friend and I wrote our homework. He was right handed, so when we turned them in unsigned. Then she read both of them so easy. Then she wondered who wrote them? Then he and I signed them. Then I told her don’t you ever tell me she couldn’t read my writing again!

  14. Tracey says:

    My youngest son is a very strong right handed person. He damaged his right thumb when he was two and so was unable to use it for a while, we were told he might even have his big toe put there if the thumb could not heal. He had a metal rod in his thumb but infection set in and they were worried about the skin graft. So the rod was taken out and he had a half cast to help keep his thumb straight. When it came to pre school was his test of using the hand he needed. He would use his right hand until his thumb was sore and then use his left hand. When his right hand was better he went back to that. It took him nearly the whole year to be able to use his right hand properly. By him being dominate right hand , he strengthen his right thumb and was able to use it. We had been told he would never have any strength in it by the specialist. So if we were meant to use a certain hand and given the choice we will use that hand.

  15. Karen A. Bryan says:

    I am a totally left-handed, footed individual. thank goodness I was born when I was. I remember my 2nd grade teacher who had an identical twin, they were both forced to write right-handed. the interesting part was she had the most beautiful handwriting left and right! she knew it was wrong what happened to her so she cherished us “lefties”, I will never forget her, Mrs Hutzell. Another interesting twist, she and her identical twin married twins! I have a daughter who is also left handed. I feel privileged that I am a little different (special)!

  16. Karla says:

    I was an original and inborn left-handed but my late mom trained me to do anything such as a writing dexterity in right side. Unfortunately, the following effects mentioned int the informative article were experienced in my real life situation. I am a loner, withdrawn and I had the bad penmanship. The good effect is using both dexterity, I am fast encoder because my left hand is still dominantly functioning but I can still write with the use of my left hand yet the penmanship is like most kindergartners. I was left handed until I was around 4 or 5 years old.

  17. Ida says:

    I was a lefty who was switched during First grade. I definitely agree that it is disastrous to do that. I’m a mess as an adult, and I feel as though I was cheated of my creative potential.

  18. Beth and Alan Greenblatt says:

    We think our son should be left-handed, but that he felt pressure in school and is a righty. Is there any way we can get him to be the lefty we think he is?

  19. Cathy Bateman Coleman says:

    I was changed as a second grader , when I got to public school . I can recall that like it was yesterday . Several teachers were at the back of the room, and they told me I was taught wrong at the private school the previous year . Look, everyone else is using their other hand . Well , I can’t tell you the years of confusion that have gone on since that day, 60 years ago . I was the only bed wetter , of five siblings . I never knew which hand to use for what . I have been on depression medication for all my adult life . I do have a super strong sense of North , South , east, and west. But I was a draftsman as a career . I know in the 1950s it was a time when they changed lefties. Not a good thing , for sure.

  20. Shreyansh says:

    I was born lefty but my parents forced me into being a righty ….. I wirte from my right hand …. And to be true it feels very awkward cause im instinctively left …. I wish i could reverse this … Cause when ido things from my left it just feels very natural …..

  21. Mel says:

    Lefty story

    In my early years at school I was shy, reserved, and noticeably slower (often pointed out by other students to my dismay). Though I am aware that other factors contributed to some of this, I would guess that a lot of my ‘slow-but-sure-nature’ stems from being forced to use my right hand, effectively needing to repeating some of the development one goes through before entering school. But I notice that with some things I am still slower, mentally and can seemingly confuse myself which worries me to some degree. And Im never one to finish an exam within the time given, needing more time to just think. Its definitely not due to lack of intelligence, its simply needing a Little more time to process Information sometimes.

    During my teens they discovered that my left side had less muscle tone, put down to not using my dominant side enough in a right-handed world (This is not uncommon in right-handed people, but it appeared more obvious with me probably due to the dominant side being neglected). And later on we noticed that I have a lot of trouble with my left side. Inevitably if there is any kind of pain or accident it occurs pretty much exclusively on my left side.

    This was only really connected to the left-handed conversion when I mentioned my concern about the problems all contained to my left side, alongside the fact that I was forced to write right handed.

    Its comforting to know that there are others who experience various difficulties from a forced change in mental thought Patterns. And I will end with a few positives – even though they may make me a Little slower than if I was left a lefty.

    – I studied architecture and can draw with both hands rather than experiencing the awkward crossing of arms to draw on the left side of the straight edges. (Bonus, I just swap Hands and have neat lines)
    – I love art and also often find that subconsciously I Switch to my left hand for drawing and painting. This is also nice for sewing and embroidery – just swap hands when one is tired or if feels less awkward to use the left. Same with cooking or baking, and even sometimes when I find Im having a bad day with tennis with my right I simply Switch to my left.

    Now I guess I should focus on balancing the muscles out to make full use of this Situation 🙂 Though I do wonder what life would have been like had I been left to my left-handedness.

  22. Rose Marie Junge says:

    I am 78 years old, I was born in Germany in 1937 in a very intolerant, programmed world. My mother thought she was ambidextrous, but today I believe she too was left handed. So, for her to see to it that I would fit into the mandatory right handed world was the unquestioned thing to do. Six years ago I moved to Woodbridge, VA and as aChristmas present gave my granddaughter Tae Kwondo lessons, this program impressed me so much that I joined the school and began to take lessons myself. Today I am a second Dan hoping to test for my white stripe in four weeks. Tae Kwon Do is the most difficult thing I have done in my life but also the most beneficial. The reason I am again looking into my right left problem is a stiff right elbow, with pain in my upper spine. I think that this is related to my using the right side which keeps my body always tense.
    I have two questions: am I right?
    and what else can I do to overcome this problem.
    In meditation I realized that I am afraid of my left side. When I think of writing or drawing with my left hand I have a strong sense of fear.

  23. patricia overbey says:

    I was born left handed however in school my left hand was tied to a chair so I could not use it.[ how barbaric] Today I write with my right hand [my writing is horrible no matter how hard I try]. I can eat with either hand but eat better with the left hand. Anything with a ball it is left handed. I tie my shoes left handed clap hands etc with the left hand. I find a lot a times if some one says make a right or left turn it is not automatic I have to think a split second & actually look down at my hands. Crazy isn’s it.

  24. Mitch says:

    Iv always known that in preschool I was using both hands and that the ‘teachers’ and my mother thought it best to focus on just my right instead of developing a naturally. In school is was considered ADD and dyslexic. Couldn’t write a coherent sentence. Can’t catch a ball. Had to use the special pen grip. He to go to the special class for kids falling behind.
    I’m now 29 and my friends see me as intelligent and witty but I can’t help but get angry how I was made to feel like a dumbass for most of my life…. All the times I never tried because I thought I was stupid. All because someone thought I should be right.

  25. Allan Ritchie says:

    I was right handed till 46 then switched slowly to being mainly left handed in writing at 64 I can now write almost as well left handed as right handed but usually for longer anyway

  26. James says:

    My nephew is staying with me for a while as he attends university.
    I noticed that he has trouble writing with his left hand. In watching him and I see that he favors the right side. IE. he uses the mouse with his right hand, he eats with his right hand, his right side is stronger etc..
    I think what happened is that when he was young, his older brother is actually left handed and he imitated his older brother so he was going to be left handed too.
    Since he’s now 19 years old. Is there anything I can do?

  27. Ana says:

    I say that i make use of my left hand most of the time now, and ever since this works so much better for me rather using my right hand.

  28. Ana says:

    hello! may name is ana, but my friends call me anson for a bit silly story. well, i was raised by a mother and father who taught me to write using my right hand. i never imagined doing things without using it but my penmanship with my right hand was as terrible as first grade schooler could do. But somehow in 6th grade, i had noticed that left handed people have the most creative mind when it comes to art, and i had a crush who happened to be left handed, which who inspired me to make use of my lefty but never thought of him as creative.

    some how as time goes by i still make use of my left hand and sometimes write things with my left hand which i find with so much better hand writing and so much understandable. i am 24 now, until just today, i was bored while at work, and i tried drawing something out of my imagination. But surprisingly, my drawing with my left hand was incredibly much better than i do with my right hand. somehow, it helps me think creatively as well.

    i just am not sure it does confuse me because it makes me think faster, and even work faster. do you think theres something you can say about that?

  29. Stacey says:

    I just want to say thank you for this article! I was left-handed and forced to switch to my right-hand in first grade. The confusing thing for me was not understanding why the teacher wasn’t correcting the other left handers – until I found out that that my mother had previously spoken with the teacher and instructed her to make sure I did not right with my left hand. I remember feeling “weird” about it; like “what’s wrong with me?” In high school I used both hands to play sports and to paint in art class and had no difficulties using left handed scissors etc.

    Now that I’m in my mid 30’s, I’m going to try and challenge myself to be left handed again.

    • Jovitha says:

      Interesting article. I was left handed when I was little, and was switched to right hand at a young age (I would learn later it was only to write and kick a ball on the right foot). I can’t even remember been left handed. So I always thought i was right-handed. Anyways, I was a bed wetter and an obsessive nail biter. I was also very shy and timid. I’m 21 now and i think I have slowed down biting my nails and have began to open up a bit more.
      Growing up, when playing cricket I always batted with my left hand, (I didn’t realize that until in high school, when a classmate asked me “if your right handed why are you batting with your left hand?”) I was so SHOCKED, I thought right handed people batted that way. Also when my dad was teaching me how to swing a golf stick, I would turn to my left, and he’d always tell me turn to your right, that’s the right way. I naturally always turned to my left. Also at the dinner table, i held the knife on my left hand and fork on the right (I thought right handed people ate this way) only to find out from a friend, just last year that no, right handed people eat the opposite way.I was so confused with life, until my elder sister told me one day that I was actually left handed when i was little. That’s when things started to make sense. Thank God. i thought there was something wrong with my brain.

      From there, I would realize more things that i did with my left hand. Like, I usually have my phone on my left hand and text faster on my left hand. I can also text on my right hand, but i naturally prefer my left. i answer my phone calls on the left ear. At the metro station walking into a train, i realized i always like to walk in and turn left. It’s like my brain just prefers everything left. Also i prefer sleeping on the left, or if I’m resting my head on someones shoulders, I would rest the left side of my head on their shoulders.
      Another thing i realized is, I’m so slow writing with my right hand, compared to my other classmates who are 100% right handed or left handed. Their using their natural hand.I’m naturally left handed.

      I really wish I was never switched to right handed-I think that’s the reason why I can’t draw. like honestly. Cause I’m really into arts/music, i have a wide imagination, and i wish i could draw my ideas but i can’t. I also read somewhere that,that part of your brain that senses fear is on the right hemisphere of the brain-I reckon this is so true, cause i get scared easily. i haven’t got my drivers licence yet cause I’m so fearful of driving. My country the roads are designed for right handed drivers. I guess the switch from left to right has caused so much confusion in my brain. Left handed People who weren’t switched from left to right, I’ve realized don’t have a problem driving on roads designed for right handed people, its easy for their brains to adjust.

      To end, I hope to learn more about left handedness and hopeful spread the awareness for parents not to change their left handed kids to right handed. It will have an effect on their brains.

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