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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  • Shyness and being withdrawn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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195 comments on “Changing Left to Right
  1. Eve says:

    Hi Tonya. Geese, as I read your story I related to just about everything. And when you got to the what – your – mother – told – you – about – how – to – write part; with your mention of “right hand” I actually yelled out, “Oh……!!” in not such a good way. NOT happy about that one. I have also suffered from severe anxiety and depression, PPD, fatigued, all kinds of problems with speech: poor memory, (can’t tell you how many times people thought I was lying because of that), getting words tangled up. I almost always can’t remember someone’s name after I meet them. But I almost always remember a similar name later when I see them, but not theirs. The last time I wet my bed I was 12 years old. That was a big problem for me. I would have such realistic dreams that I had gotten up to go to the bathroom, I wouldn’t know I was dreaming until I was already wet. I am 55 years old and still very embarrassed and ashamed to tell anyone that unless I know it is safe. And that’s not very many times.
    I am also very socially introverted. I can’t stand being a large crowd like going to a sports game. Even movie theaters make me nervous. Same thing with writing and speech. I didn’t flunk out of Jr. High writing, but I know that level class was probably not as demanding as a regular class for adults. And I never have been able to correctly reach the numbers and other characters that are very far away from the center of the keyboard. I have to look down to type a number. And I type with lots of typos, especially now that I get older. And I tend to use a word repeatedly within the same few sentences.
    The more I discover on this site, the more sense it makes. One thing I have not read yet, or mentioned to my dr. because I am tired of getting blank looks on their faces, is that occasionally my arm or leg kind of “jerks” like a spasm. It seems to be random and not triggered by anything I can tell. That could just be a quirk, but who knows? I am also obsessive about correcting mistakes even if I don’t have to, and sometimes, even if it’s impractical. I think that may come from my mother’s necessity for me to be “right” all the time and to shame me proper if I am not. I also have a few different medical issues that have cropped up over time. Like PTSD, fibromyalgia, bipolar disorder, and other immune-related issues. Which now makes me wonder if at least some of this could be related to being forced to be right-handed and all the stress from doing things “wrong” and always having the feeling of never being able to do things right (correctly).
    Hmmm…. sure makes sense to me.

  2. Erin says:

    I remember coloring and doing other things with my left hand as a child. When I was being prepared to start school my mother kept putting everything in my right hand and I vaguely remember he telling me “that’s wrong” when I would use right hand. I have had a lot of issues in life and I honestly believe it began with this. It messed with the way my brain was wired and I feel I have paid a serious price for it!

  3. Edwin Bahamon says:

    I was left-hand when I was a child by the nuns in the Catholic Institute, but I dont remember what they did. Currently, although I am forty years old, I find myself with procastination problems and certain social awkwardness and I want to know what happened.

  4. Claire says:

    This was a very interesting article. If I may, I would like to share a personal story of my own.

    I come from a very creative family and inherited many creative traits from my mother. As a child, I was always very curious and started reading and writing and drawing, at an early age. I was left handed, before I started school; then everything changed. When I started school, I was forced to use my right hand. My handwriting was atrocious for years. Strangely enough, even though I learned to draw with my right hand, I had trouble drawing hands until well into my teens.

    When I entered university, as I had trouble spelling and remembering grammar rules, I was tested for dyslexia and scored positive for mild dyslexia. My sense of direction is also horrendous as, if I walk out of a doorway, everything looks very confusing; so much so, I have to remind myself to turn left to keep going in the same direction. As a direct result of this, I do not drive.

    As I grew older, I made myself learn as much as possible about grammar rules etc.. This with the hope of fulfilling my dream of becoming an author one day. To date, my grammar and spelling is still an issue, however, I have written a book and am in the process of hiring a professional editor to edit it. I do not have any concrete proof that my being forced to change my dominant hand from left to right caused my dyslexia, though as far as I know, it has not quelled my creative ability.

    I welcome any information you can send me on this and thank you for taking the time and interest in me.

    Kind Regards

  5. Ana says:

    As an adult with my first child and PND I understand now. It’s always been traumatic for me and I only had a thought about it today, so I looked up articles and it all makes sense.

    My parents always forced me to write with my right, but now I can do both! I’ve been trying to train myself throughout the years, and it’s been tough, but I’m still dominantly right handed which makes me quite sad. Developmentally I’ve found it hard to concentrate on certain tasks. I might add that I used to be rather creative as a child, and my brain is constantly buzzing with ideas, but I always start and never finish on a creative project.
    I don’t know if there’s a “cure” for this or if it means that you have to try to reprogram your brain again to keep up with simple daily tasks but I’d love to know more!
    Thank you for putting this out there, I know as a parent now, I will accept whatever comes my way 🙂

  6. Jean says:

    I, too, was forced to change hands by my dad in kindergarten. He threatened to slap me every time I used my left hand to write. I, too, wet my bed. I was extremely shy socially and had difficulty expressing myself verbally. However, I was molested, too, at a young age and then punished physically by my dad for that also.

  7. dawn mcfarland says:

    I was playing Wii bowling with my friend I’m right-handed but I switched to left-hand I learned how to bowl ‘left handed with my right

  8. Monika says:

    Any experience on left handers that believe they originally may be right handers? I have a left handed child, and didn’t force right handed writing because all the theory but the case was actually borderline: eating started being left handed, so later on writing came also with the left. Nevertheless, the right hand was used for many other things, precision work, etc. The child was experiencing some of the difficulties liste at the table above, and I wonder if kids that are right handed but are left to themselves to choose, and choose the ‘wrong’ hand, may also experience such difficulties. I wonder if there is a test (brain imaging or something) that can show what is the actual hand the child would better use.

  9. Dr. Sriram says:

    Very Good Article. I am impressed.

  10. Kati Sváby says:

    Detail of my letter which is about this case.

    “I shared my other problem only with one of my colleagues who became psychologists. I shared as this man has a son also. And he caused a greater trouble to his son which could be avoided if he would not be obstinate. His son was only one-year-old when he “diagnosed” that his son is left-handed.

    I am an expert in this and I had to say to him that I used to learn in the college -where I learned the method how to teach mentally disabled children – that a one-year-old child uses both hands. I asked him to wait for diagnosing whether he is left handed or right handed. But I could not convince him. His one-year-old son used both hands as every child of same age.

    But he didn’t let him use his right hand. If he found out something he insisted on it. When his son got the spoon with his right hand he put it in his left hand. It was terrible for me to see. Then I asked this psychologist who used to be my classmate. She said to me that it’s easy to diagnose whether he is left-handed or right. I knew that forcing a child to change the hands and write not dominant-handed can have very bad effects in later life as well as it can become traumatic later on.

    She told me to go home and give a coke bottle to the boy and show him to screw the cap off. If he screws off with his right hand he is right-handed.
    I did and he screwed it off with the right hand. I told his father this. But he didn’t believe he didn’t let him drawing and eat with his right hand.

    So he became left-handed.

    But when he was six years old they wanted to learn to play the violin.
    They bought for him a left-handed violin. And the problem happened then. The boy was unable to use the bow by his left-hand. They had to change the violin for a right-handed violin. Then the mother told me that you were right as my son really right handed.

    I crossed my finger for him that he gets away unharmed. Everything was okay till he became eighteen years old. But the problems appeared when he went to university.

    I began to read case studies and I saw that the problems with him are same than adults who say the parents didn’t allow them to use their dominant hand. Bad effects will not definitely occur in all people but this boy didn’t get away with it.

    Recently I met accidently this psychologist with whom I had shared this problem. And she was taken aback and told me:
    I have never heard that forcing a right-hander to change and use their left hand. Only this happens, on the contrary, forcing a left-hander to use his right hand. Why did he force him? I could not answer only I said to her it’s a good question.

    I have never put this story into English. Nobody dares to face the truth. This very smart boy has every kind of difficulties. He left his university and he doesn’t find his place in the society. He is at home and he lost his friends and he became a very lonely young man.

    I am heartbroken. I can’t help him. They did not accept any piece of advice.”

  11. tenioa says:

    My daughter is a year and 7 months n often uses Left hand to write and eat.
    Daddy doesn’t like it n I don’t either.
    No one uses left in my family and non from my hubby’s. I think she learnt from my help n also from her toodler class teacher.
    Should I control it now?
    Do u think she will change with time?

  12. Cornie says:

    My son is seven and has problems with writing. He is currently using his left hand but he was assessed by an OT 2 years ago and she said he was a right hander. We proceeded with the left hand as he seemed ok with using his left hand, but now, 2 years later, I am thinking that we made a mistake. He has similar symptoms than that of dysgraphia. Takes him 2 hours to write 5 sentences! We tested his right hand skills this weekend and he uses it with much more ease than I do (also a left hander). No where on the internet is there articles about symptoms that one is using the wrong hand. Any advice?

  13. Chris Wolfgram says:

    I was forced to be right-handed. I could go on for hours trying to explain all the far reachibg implications this had. My writing is atrocious, and if i try to write more than a sentence or two, my arm cramps up painfully. Also, i cannot sign my own name without feeling like I dont know how to start it ? Comes out different every tine.
    I could never play any sports whatsoever, so i was,ridiculed and bullied because of it. This also led to me being completely non competitive, and despising sports all my life.
    Some things i do every dsy, i still don’t know what hand to use ? Its not that i am ambidextrous, but rather, non dextrous.
    And all of this is just the tip of the iceberg.
    All i can say us, it changed everything, mostly for the. negative

  14. Stan Sheppard says:

    As a child I was turning out to be left handed. My Dad did everything he could to switch me to being right handed. By grade one, I was stammering, in grade two, I was told I’d had a nervous breakdown and was bedridden for four months. As I got older, as long as I got 10 hours sleep, my speech improved…I learned to play guitar, and being in front of people helped. But, I’ve had anxiety, and nervousness all my life.I’m in my early seventies now.

  15. Maria says:

    Well this explains a lot of things. I have bad hand writing. Last time I wet my bed was when I was 11. I stutter all my way thru high school. When I get called in reading class I unconciously read some words twice. Up until know I usually get tongue tied and had hard time expressing myself verbally. My concentration is really poor except when I’m dealing with numbers.. I’m so bad at spelling until now. I’m often referred to as neurotic and crazy by people around me. It makes me think “What if my kindergarten teacher allowed me to write using my left hand.”

  16. Deborah Shultz says:

    I grew up in the sixties and was left handed and was also made to write right handed. As a result, my writing is terrible! I don’t use cursive at all, I just print. My signature looks bad. I had anxiety when I was younger. I’m not sure if there is a connection or not. I also had a hard time with math. I have four sons and three out of four are lefties and I let them stay that way! I do some things left handed and other things right handed (whatever feels right).

  17. Ruth Dean says:

    Hi, I remember I was forced to use my right hand in primary school, which I suspect, after reading reports about the effects this has had on others, was the cause of my struggle to read when I was small, and perhaps also my introverted nature…I am 63 now and I still find I confuse left and right… I do write with both hands now, but mostly my right hand, although I do use my left for may functions which would normally(?) use the right hand. I consider myself ‘left legged’…if that makes any sense!

  18. Cheryl says:

    I am so glad that I found this article. I went to a Parochia school through 8th grade. I was born a leftie but remember the nuns making me sit on my and rapping my knuckles when I tried to write with my left hand. I seem to remember feeling confused a lot. I started making strides writing with my right hand when I suddenly broke my right hand and had a cast on it for 6 weeks. In those six weeks I naturally went back to using my left hand. Once the cast was off I went back to using my right hand. I could not write legibly for YEARS. I also stutter when tired and oddly confuse green with orange on a regular basis. A physician once told me that confusing those two colors was a direct correlation of trying to go from being left to right handed. Sigh. At this point I can use both hands for most all things except writing, which I usually use my right hand to do.

  19. Lune says:

    My dad, growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, was originally ambidextrous, but because of the stigma he was “encouraged” to be a righty. Even to this day, the only problems he has ever showed to conversion is his excessive nail-biting and some anger issues that have been resolved. My mom is a righty, so naturally, my parents thought I was going to be a righty like my older sister. However, I’m a lefty in all things except for cutting meat – which is, perhaps ironically, what my dad does for a living. Besides the possibility of my dad, only my mom’s dad was mostly a lefty, which has led me to think that perhaps my dad was originally supposed to be left-handed. My sister, on the other hand, thinks I might’ve been encouraged to be left-handed – I bite my nails a lot, used to wet the bed (which doctors have told me was most likely due to my night terrors and chronic insomnia), and I have a stutter, but after having forced speech therapy, I suppose that is to be expected.

    Also, I was wondering if anyone has heard of a right-forced-left study and its effects? Would like to read up on the opposite, as it is something that we don’t hear about, in such a right-handed-oriented society.

  20. Steve Roberts says:

    I was forced to use my right hand in Grade 1 as well. Strangely enough, I went through an interim stage where I wrote with both hands together: two hands both holding one pencil. While I learned to right with my right hand, it was pretty sloppy, and I wasn’t good at sports. In fact, I stuttered for a while and had a slight lisp. Eventually, the speech problems went away with some speech therapy, and I improved my handwriting through a drafting course in college in the eighties.

    Nevertheless, all my life, I’ve felt that in terms of my potential, I’ve been driving with one foot on the brake pedal, and I wonder if the forced dextrality had anything to do with that.

    On to the present: a few years ago, my godson taught me how to pitch. After some coaching, I thought I’d try pitching with my left hand, and it was perfect: I threw the ball right into his glove, straight and fast.

    Thusly encouraged, at age 56, I’d like to try to regain some fine motor ability in my left hand. Any tips?

  21. Judy says:

    My Name is Judy, I have a Left-handed daughter who is 17 and has had learning difficulties, but excels in music and creativity. My 7 year old son demonstrated left handed tendencies as early as infancy. When he started Prek, he was not eligible for the States Prek program due to me and his father being married, having jobs, and no history of drugs, we were sent to bottom of the list and had to enroll him at a sub level Prek program. I told the teacher from day 1 he was left handed, but she taught him right handed. His writing is horrible, he throws with his left hand even rises his scooter pushing off the his right foot(right handers push off of left foot). We just got back from a meeting with his 2nd grade teacher and she states he is struggling with reading and math, only today has learned of his left handed tendencies. We are only left with “what now?”

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