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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  • Shyness and being withdrawn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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154 comments on “Changing Left to Right
  1. 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.

  2. 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?

  3. 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.

  4. 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 …..

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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

  10. 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?

  11. 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.

  12. 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?

  13. 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.

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