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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  • Shyness and being withdrawn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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130 comments on “Changing Left to Right
  1. Yoshua says:

    I was forced to switch as a young boy and i remember being confused and it took many years for me to get good hand writing and only in cursive. I am depressed but in a i dont fit in the world and feeling like i will never be happy. I take life day by day and people love me yet i keep my distance and i am always in my head. People often think im detached and zoned out when really im anxious and shook up and so aware of every noise and vibration Its really hard to be around people. I force myself to get time in with people. I feel like a alien that somehow got stuck and forced to live this thing called life. I have read a lot about this and it screams out to me. What if we switch back?

    • Net says:

      Hello Yoshua, I recommend you to switch back. All those troubles will either go away or reduce significatively and you’ll feel more confident. Take care!

  2. Layne Patrick Lyons says:

    I also think that Grace is totaly wrong for thinking its a “stinking curse”. She’s definatly sitting on both sides of her brain.

  3. Layne Patrick Lyons says:

    I was born a lefty but still experience everything that is said will happen if changed. I continually write with my left hand, and proud of it so from my perspective I think you also have to look at different problems that might exist such as learning difficulties and dyslexia which I was diagnosed with at the age of 58 by nuero-physc testing. We always have to keep an open mind of the could be’s.

  4. Grace says:

    I can’t agree that switching from left handed to right is bad. I switched myself from being left-handed to being right handed. I think it was the best damn thing I ever did for myself.

    Being left handed is a stinking curse, and I think it’s best to get rid of it, and become right handed.

  5. Nicole Feekes says:

    I have an identical twin sister. As children we never wanted to be the same. We did everything different. I don’t remember exactly how it happened but she used her right hand and I ended up using my left. I was always the one who got the short end of the stick. She always told me how to cure my hair and tried to make us as different as possible and I went along with it. I am good at drawing I always wanted to be an artist. But the strange thing is I use my right hand for everything else besides writing and drawing. My handwriting always sloppy but my sisters was neat. In middle school I developed a horrible stutter and still have it to this day. I am now 23. I also have the worst memory it sometimes scares me. I am neurotic for sure and also instead of nail biting I curl my hair with my fingers and nails and pick scabs on my head. I was always shy and withdrawn and my sister was much more outgoing. These days I’ve come a long way as far as personality is concerned but I still stutter and it makes me feel awful sometimes it’s hard to explain the frusteration. And my memory and curling/picking problem is just as bad as before. I’m hoping I can switch to right hand now and maybe that’ll help me with talking ..

  6. Ana perez says:

    I just found out that my daughter who is now 7, was converted in school, I never noticed anything that would tell me that she was a lefty. She has problems with reading, writing and dyslexia, which makes her very insecure and shy. I don’t want her life to be difficult and to suffer from this, so what can I do? Should I teach her to write with her left hand and Maybe be ambidextrous? How can I help her?

    • CM says:

      My 6 year old son has had the same experience being changed to right hand writing when he started school. Most other activities he still does left handed and left footed for sport and when I look back at photos and video from before he started school (and writing) he did everything with a left preference.
      Have you received any advice about reverting to left hand writing for your daughter? I see many of the primary issues for switched handers starting for my son and want to help him. Is there any lasting damage to two years of writing right?

  7. Jennifer Welch says:

    If anyone out there is being pressured into changing their dominant writing hand, please don’t let it happen. If you are a caregiver, just Do Not force the child. If you are the child, tell your favorite teacher or your pastor or a trusted relative who care about what happens to you. I watched my beautiful nephew grow—he is 19 now—but could not do anything about him being forced to change his writing hand. I read all the negative effects of what happens when a left hander is forced to change to right hand. It fits him to a tee….sadly it affected his personality too. Please, listen to your child, don’t ruin his or her life!! Not worth it.

  8. Lois Cairns says:

    I was changed from left hand to right hand in the Preps 1951 and couldn’t pronounce any words properly for months and developed a lisp. I wet my bed up until 12 years of age, had bad nightmares but wasn’t allowed to have a small light on in the bedroom. My maternal grandfather and Uncle were left handed. I still can’t sort out easy things but can sort out difficult things and I had no self esteem or social skills but was comfortable playing the bagpipes for 52 years as they are played on one’s left side. I can throw a ball with my left hand much better than with my right hand. I wish I knew more back in those days but most of us would have been strapped or bashed if we opened our mouths anyway.

  9. Tomas says:

    Hi I was also a lefty and was changed in school ,as soon as I put a pen in my hand I get nervous even to write my signature and am bad at spelling is this caused by being changed many years ago

  10. ribu says:

    I was born as a left hander and being forced to right in my childhood.the difficulties tat I’m facing right now is I’m not able to concentrate on a particular interest shifts rapidly.although I did engineering I don’t like this field and if u ask me which field I like then I’ll be in chaos.because I have plenty f interests.what will I do now.??is going back to left hand writing will solve this issue??? Or will make it worse..please reply..very urgent

  11. Deji Doherty says:

    My wife was forced as a child to change from left hand to right hand, now she is bothered that this has really affected and still affects her.

    What can I do to help her?

  12. vishnu says:

    I was born left handed.After reading your article i am able to relate a lot of things what u have mentioned with mine.
    I was forced to write ,brush , eat in right hand during my childhood.Everything else is left handed for me..
    Few things I am having difficulty with :

    -I have a problem of expressing myself.I am unable to make other understand what i was trying to say.sometime while explaining i myself get confused.It has happened a lot of time.
    what I am trying to say.
    -I am bad with numbers and calculations.I get confused while doing calculations or in day to day life where there are more than 1 digit.
    -My hand writing is bad.
    – I stutter but lots of words arises while writing but not while speaking.
    -I sleep for 10 to 12 hrs most of the days in week.

  13. jasi yazer says:

    I was born as left handed..I was using left hand for writing till 3rd class..and then ma systers forced me to turn tu right hand..they beat me when I use my left hand..
    now I m right hand ..but I m still using left for more activities..but it is not strong.. in cricket I m right handed ..
    I feel I loose my Memory some times and a little problem with ma speak..also I m some weak in maths and calculations ..
    what about ma brain ..plz tell me what to do …

  14. Chan says:

    I think I was a lefty growing up because I do some things with my right but as I get older I keep leaning to my left and only trust my left hand to do. Although I’m becoming ambidexterous I was just curious to how I could find out if I’m a lefty. I even pick the pen up with my left sometimes and my handwriting is legible like a kid wrote it but still lucid

  15. Grace says:

    I choose to switch from left-handed to right when I was eleven years old. I feel it was 100% the correct decision.

    I don’t know why, the idea that switching children is bad came from. For me it was entirely a good thing. I had better handwriting in the long run,

  16. Hnin Shwe Zin says:

    When I was a year I think, my mother said to me to change writing hand left to right because of I’m girl. Pple sait that it is very bad for me. If I was’t change my hand I will be very clever. My father doesnt like my mother changing my writing hand left to right.I can’t concentrate very well and can’t remember everything since I was young. Please tell me!! The adventages and what can i do with my writing hand.

  17. Rob cohen says:

    I was changed to my right hand in first grade by my teacher. I am bad at directions (driving) and remembering things, math, it is hard to be organized at work.

  18. Cathy Fortune says:

    As child my mother yelled at me if I used my left hand to write or eat with. All things I had to do right handed. She would loudly exclaim, “we already have one back handed child, we are not having two!!!” My older brother is left handed. I did have poor handwriting and my concentration was terrible. As an adult, I went back to eating left handed and I can do almost anything with either hand. I used to do many things left handed, and did not realize it was left handed until someone pointed it out. When learning new motor skills, I try with my right hand first as it was drilled into me from childhood, however if I switch to my left hand/arm to learn the skill I learn it very fast. As a result, once I learn to do something left handed first, I can also do it right handed.

  19. Mohammed Ali says:

    I was born left-handed, but I was forced to make my right hand my dominant side, not because my parents forced me to, but because my junior nursery teacher thought me being left handed would cause me many problems growing up in life and turned me, fast forwarding to today, I am 17, I am a high school cricket player, good things about being changed is that I can bat with both Right and Left sided, but I prefer batting with my Right side, but let’s leave the perks behind, there aren’t many, but the drawbacks I think are a whole lot, but the worst of them I think is stuttering .. stuttering, I always thought it was genetic because in my Mother’s side of the family almost everyone stutters, but none of my siblings stutter, but, as mentioned above that forcing to change could lead to stuttering, forces me to think otherwise, so umm here’s my question, If I force myself to become partially left-handed again, will my stutter pass away? because at this phase of life I don’t really care about being left or right handed, but stuttering is holding me back alot, again leading to some of the effects mentioned above .. Shyness, Nail Biting, low concentration etc.
    The reason why I ask this question is because I really do think that I can somewhat make my left hand dominant, because over the years I trained myself to bat both sided, bowl both sided. And I think if I try really hard I might even be able to write with both hands … so please leave something in the reply, anything will help.
    Thanks in advance :)

  20. Uriel Fernandez says:

    I never thought of my self as a lefty… until I turned 9 years old and I used my left leg to play soccer. After that, I started to remember that as a first grader my teacher made me use my right hand, then she would send notes to my parents saying that I had bad handwriting. a lot of those effects sound familiar. I had bed accidents all the way to 11 years old and as an 18 year old I almost did it again once. I still bite my nails from time to time, I´m no anxious I just do it, anyway most of the things on that list apply except for the physical tiredness. Also Tonya´s description of being able to communicate more coherently in writing than speaking is spot on.

    It has a lot of negative side effects, but it also has some good things. I believe we´ll never be the same, all those years probably made permanent changes on our brains and now we are just the way we are. Not lefty, not righty but just weird and cool 😉

  21. MattH says:

    I predominantly try to use my left hand for nearly everything… but I’ve always written right handed. I’m left sided in nearly everything except writing, and after reading this I think I may have accidentally switched as a child :/

    I had reading difficulties as a young boy, and handwriting never looked neat until I forced my self to make it more legible. I was also shy and withdrawn, and didn’t start coming out of this phase until well into University.

    Is it possible to be switched by accident? I started school at the age of 4 (UK boy here), and it’s just rather interesting to me.

    side note, my mother is left handed and I have taken many of my physical traits from her (my personality is a hybrid of my mum and dad :v )

  22. swapna says:

    after reading this i am just thinking about my 2.5 years old son who always starts his work with his left like…while using tooth brush, while something was given to eat, while scratching on board or notebooks.
    i just want don’t know whether to leave as it is….or i could stop him.
    Once i say which hand…..he’ll automatically use his right hand….i just need some suggestions on this…..

  23. Abdalla says:

    In fact, I was left handed in all my life. As I can remember, nobody forced me to change from left handed to right handed and all of sudden, after 35 year of writing with my left hand changed to right handed. Presently, I write with my right hand. However, I can still hold the pen and write with my left handed with slow motion. I am not sure how my brain just changed like that. It is strange!

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