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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  • Shyness and being withdrawn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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243 comments on “Changing Left to Right
  1. Patricia Manzel says:

    Forced to change, my mother didn’t know that I’m blind in my right eye. So my L eye is dominant and I had to use my R hand for everything. Problems included stuttering, extreme shyness and introversion, no coordination ( couldn’t learn to swim, couldn’t learn to play any instruments), clumsy, depression, anxiety. I have a R handed son and a L handed son. At least I knew to let them choose naturally.

  2. John Payne says:

    Back in the 1980s when I was younger my babysitter forced me to be right-handed when I was inclined to be left handed I am noticing some detrimental effects in life as we speak one is cacographic handwriting I didn’t know if there was any on set being able to get better handwriting or what I need to do to eradicate the negative side effects

  3. Dr. Billy Levin says:

    There is much more to being left handed. As we develop school readiness the left brains becomes dominant and feeds the right side of the human body with various necessary functions. The right brain is supposed to subservint to the left. When an inherited genetic predisposition exists, the right brain is dominant causing ADHD and/or ADD. Right brain dominant is part of left handedness. Roger Sperry received the Nobel Prize for explaining hemeispheric brain functions.
    Dr Billy Levin

  4. Isabel Hay says:

    Are there any studies on ‘hook’ writers being made to ‘un-hook’? I’m a lefty (apparantly a late-decider as a young child) who wrote with a hook but was made to write without a hook. As I understand it ‘hook-ers’ are a bit more other-hemisphered (if that makes sense). You get right hookers too, so it’s not just (as I thought as a child) about not smudging what you write. I used to get some letters back-to-front.

    • Isabel Hay says:

      thinking on this, took me ages to learn left from right, still get it wrong when dancing, so my body sense has no strong sidedeness if that makes sense – gave up taekwondo when we were doing a sequence and i was convinced i was doing it the same as everyone else, even when i checked, and then was told i was doing it the other way round – i was mirroring it. Remember learning to drive, looking in the mirror and couldn’t work out if what i was seeing was a reverse image (right=left) or not. In an experiment at university had no problems writing right to left under the table (up onto the bottom of the table top). Nail biting to this day, very shy, awkward – banging into things.

  5. Karen S. says:

    These symptoms could also be from High Functioning Autism! Many adults who suffered greatly in School and life, are now being diagnosed as Autistic. I’m Autistic, left handed, and was never forced to write right-handed but I still have quite a few of these symptoms!

  6. Bernie Stewart says:

    70 y.o. man forced by school in first grade to convert to right handed ness. I always felt awkward. Around 40 I went back to using left hand, writing, throwing, etc. it was a easy process and as silly as it might sound, I felt liberated. However, I remain socially awkward, major depression, and memory deficit.

  7. David Ehrlich says:

    You shouldn’t have a problem with your son — he can mirror what he sees you do. I am used to watching right handed people on TV, and it looks natural to me, because I mirror them. But, when I watched President Obama write, or chef Hubert Keller slice vegetables, it looks weird, until I realize, they are left-handed, like me! I am a good, but fussy chef, so all my knives are left-handed; those with symmetric blades have left-handed handles. I can’t imagine any other way.

  8. Richard says:

    My two boys are left handed.
    My original laterality bias was left but was forced to use right hand.
    I have on occasion wanted to go back using my left hand. I am forty years old. Is it too late for me to go back to my instinctual left dominant hand and relearn writing?


  9. Shabaka says:

    I’m reading all of this with my jaw practically on the floor!! I started out life left handed but I was forced by my father to write with my right hand. I have experienced so much of the things everyone has shared! The bed wetting. Problems with directions. I had a mantra so I knew my left from my right. Depression. Anxiety. Social awkwardness. Introversion. Dyslexia. Spelling mistakes. Forgetfulness. Forgetting a persons name within 2 seconds of meeting them. Memory issues. To this day I still have issues choosing which hand to put the fork or knife in. Sometimes I switch while I’m eating. I’m going to train myself to write with my left again. Maybe this will help me with the rest of my life!! Amazing. Thanks to everyone for sharing. This clears up a lot.

  10. Chris Evans says:

    I believe my grandson is left handed but not sure because he switches back & forth when he’s coloring. He’s four years old.

    • Patricia Manzel says:

      My younger son did this. It continued when he began elementary school. His teacher asked him to choose, which he did—he chose to write with his L hand but can do most anything with either. It’s an advantage if he likes sports. Strength and coordination on both sides have helped my son enjoy a number of sports as well as playing a guitar. Your grandson is fortunate, in my opinion.

  11. Shanda S. says:

    this was a very interesting article, tonya’s story reminded me of my past in a sense..when i was 12 i broke my right hand (which is my dominant hand) and i had to use my left hand for everything! it was a bother but i thought i could do it. i wasnt force to switch hands but encourage to but most of the symptoms listed above i had and still do but i never paid it no mind back then, to this day until i read this article i would have said it might have been due to an abusive household i lived in butim still a bit skeptical. i can read better thatn most in my family but forming my own sentences and finishing a thought process is very difficult for me to do most times even so i still try to profect using my left hand

  12. Joseph says:

    I’m a born right hander. But for a past few days all most the activities are transposed to left. Once I started using my left hand for writing. I didn’t feel any difficulties. Presently, all my mundane tasks are normally changing to left. What should I do?

  13. Deborah Andrews says:

    I remember when I was told to write with my right hand, because writing with my left “wasn’t nice”. It was very awkward. I did have a couple of bed wetting episodes and have had difficulty with public speaking all my life. Has that reduced my creativity?

  14. Billie Aduddell Knight says:

    My parents didn’t think it was normal to be left handed and made me use my right hand. When I started school my first grade teacher whacked my hand when I tried to use my left hand. I believe that it caused a lot trouble for me with learning and other aspects of my life.

  15. Maria Jose Gomez Gonzalez says:

    I had covent education and I was forced to write with my righthand. every day the nuns would tie my left hand to the back of my chair. After that I was told I would be a failure for the rest of my life. I believe I am dislexic, I fulfill 10 out of your 11 effects. I a 60 years old and I need someone to tell me that I am not stupid or evil. I became ambidextrous trhough the process and my mother lost a baby at 6 month of pregnancy then I was born at 9 months-

  16. Ashley says:

    so my 7 year old son has been writing with his left hand from the beginning and I thought that he was just left handed so I let him do his thing. Now he is in the first grade and cant write well at all. The school has assigned at occupational therapist to come in and help, we figured it was a fine motor skill or something, but after some testing and observing him for 6 months, the OT, teacher and principle think that he is in reality right handed. He wrote out a sentence with his left hand and the same sentence in his right handed and he wrote at a 52% with left hand and 97% with his right hand. However, he says he does not like to write with his right hand and refuses to do it even though it looks so much nicer. He says it is not comfortable at all and when we suggest it he refused to do any writing at all. So the school is now saying we will just allow him to type instead of writing all the time since his left handed hand writing is almost not legible. I am not sure on what to do. I do think we shouldnt force him to write with his right hand but there has to be something we can do instead of just allowing him to type… so he just will never learn to write correctly?? Any advice on what to do??

  17. Patrik says:

    I am from Czech Republic and my english is not that good as I would wish. I broke my right hand few years ago and I still can’t write well. When I am extending my fingers (trying to make them straigth) it really hurts. My classmate is making fun of me – playing paper scis. rock knowing I can only use rock. So decided to learn being leftie. Do you have any tips?

    • Isabel Hay says:

      if you have to write with your left, you might find writing with a ‘hook’ easier than writing the normal way with your left, instead of your hand below the pen on the paper as normal, hold the pen, bend your wrist towards you, so the hand is above what you write, so when you write an upstroke you pull instead of push the pen – like it shows in the “incorrect position” on this page - – it is not incorrect! My understanding is it will be less bad for your brain than switching to the left-hand ‘proper’ position. Remember to slant the paper to make it easy to write straight.

      • Matt says:

        When writing with a hook, I actually find it easier to slant the paper the way righties slant it. Most lefties I’ve seen write “normally” and with the end of the paper towards them shifted to the left. Righties do that to the right, and it’s more comfortable for “hook writers” that way, I guess.
        I’ve been writing with a hook ever since I began, it was instinctual, I guess, but my mum often says that this is gonna give me massive wrist aches when I’m older. Is that true?

  18. James says:

    I use my left hand for practically everything but writing.
    Like many others I was forced to write right-handed. In year one of primary school my teacher forced me to switch. She gave me raffle tickets as a sort of reward system when I wrote right-handed instead of left, I thought it was cool at the time because free raffle tickets right? But when I look back I realise she used this as an incentive to change my writing hand. I wish I didn’t change.

    I have depression and anxiety currently and I’m not sure if this is related to the switch but I’m deciding to use my left hand again. It’s quite tricky as school requires me to write a lot so I have to use my right in some cases as it is faster than writing with my left currently. Not sure how long it would take but this would slow the process considerably I guess.


  19. Ruthie Kotek says:

    My mother says that my sister, who was a lefty, taught me how to write before or during kindergarten (late 1950s). My mother believed I was a lefty, and so did I for many years. She also told me that in grade 1, I had told her that the teacher said to the students “pick up your pencils with your right hand”. I don’t remember any pressure to use my right hand in school. However, it seems that I was very distressed. Being aware of the potential problems stemming from forced conversion, mother had a talk with the teacher, who changed her instructions to “pick up your pencils”. I was allowed to continue writing with my left hand in school.
    But here is the thing: I have problems that were described in the article, and by many lefties who were forced to switch from left to right hand:
    • I was always shy, and even though I fought it, and actually became a teacher (every day on stage… ), I was always uncomfortable with it. I find it difficult to socialize, after being having been bullied during most of primary school except for three years when we were living abroad.
    • I was always moody as a schooler, had little or no faith in myself. Hated sports.
    • My handwriting was always bad, and my school reports always had this remark “… should try to speak loudly in class and improve her handwriting”.
    • I am unable to find my way in malls that I frequently visit, and have no sense of spatial orientation, which makes driving a stressful experience (gps saves me).
    • My short-term memory is practically nonexistent, albeit repetition helps partially.
    • My mother says that I was always quick to become tired, and during the school year I became exhausted around end of first term. Exhaustion became an issue as I became an adult and I was diagnosed with CFS.
    • I have a habit of peeling skin off my lips since I was in primary school (never bit my nails, though).
    • I think, perhaps I was right handed who was accidentally switched to left hand writing, which may be associated with my bed wetting until I went to school. It seemed to my mother that the teacher’s instructions temporarily switched me from left to right hand writing, and may have influenced the bed-wetting for the worse. It stopped when I was 7-8 years old, but on occasion, it happens even now (60 plus years old…).
    • Never had reading problems or grammar/spelling difficulties, but I have interchanged letters in words, or made mistakes such as “righting” instead of “writing” which I did earlier in this post, and corrected later. I also never stuttered.
    Now, check this out:
    • I do almost everything else, other than writing , with my right hand, albeit I can do all or most of them with my left hand to varying degrees.
    • I can’t remember when I began to practice writing with my right hand, and I hadn’t done it on a regular basis, but in 2009 I broke my left wrist, so I wrote on the whiteboard with my right hand… That annoyed my students quite a bit. I can also write, more slowly but very clearly on paper with my right hand.
    • I use scissors with my right hand, but I believe that, I will be able to use scissors adapted for left handed just as nicely.
    • I eat with fork in left, knife in right. I can eat soup with my both hands and sometimes I shift the spoon from hand to hand and back during the same soup session.
    • Brush my hair with the right hand.
    • Tie my shoes like a righty.
    • Brush my teeth with my left hand but can and sometimes do brush them with my right hand.
    • Prefer heavy lifting with my right hand.
    So am I left handed, or right handed forced to become a lefty? The jury is still out on that one.

  20. Mosharof Minhaz says:

    My mom forced me to writing by right hand,and now I can write by both hand, cutting something I use my left hand, bowling I use my left, bating right, I can remember I was a pure lefty, but my mom changed so many things, I don’t know it’s good or bad,
    And father was a lefty, I was born in winter, December 22,I’ve noticed that still my left side is stronger than right. Thank you.

  21. Sarah Elisha says:

    Hi. I don’t really know how many times I was beaten or locked up or served punishment for being left handed. I think I was 6years old when I was forced to change. I lived with family members sometimes when my parents weren’t home. I have a hard time remembering people’s names, so much so that they thought I was lying. I got punished for not doing everything with my right hand. I used to love my hand writing, I got beaten in school for writing with my left hand. A while after I got used to writing and doing everything with my right hand. Now am paying the Price for it. I have a hard time with my directions. I have to have a small paper note in my books to remember my assignments from school. I have to have a remind to remember important events happening around me. I have a hard time making friends I prefer to me alone than I a crowd. I hide even from my family. I have difficult with my spelling and grammar rules. I have to read the rules and write it without looking at my test books to see if I can remember. I am trying to change back but it is really hard. Please I need all the help I can get.

  22. David o johnson says:

    I’m a left handed 22 years also but I seem to have the same effect I don’t talk much because Im socially cripple very forgetful if it’s not important to me I will say I will do it and don’t do it my girlfriend has to tell me things more then once so I want forget I also lack in spelling or is these smart phones making it worse

  23. MakeMyLeftyARighty says:

    So I really don’t give a crap about what research says. Both me and my husband are right-handed and our soon to be 4-year old is showing a definite tendency towards his left-hand (has since birth). Of course he has about a year to learn to write (kindergarten is right around the corner) and it’s very difficult for us to try and teach him. And that’s just the beginning! I think about EVERYTHING: from how notebooks are made, to baseball mitts, tying a tie, etc. Does anyone really know how to make him change? Unless someone wants to come and teach him how to basically do EVERYTHING I really need some advise!
    And please don’t tell me just to let him be who he is. I remember working in a pizza place where we had to braid crust and trying to teach a left-handed employee how to do it. Talk about a nightmare for both of us! Everything was backwards!

  24. PAULINE says:

    I had heard a remark my mother made to my sister one day. Pauline was left handed and I taught her to write right. I had spatial problems, physically exhausted al the time. into trouble a lot as a kid, very defiant with mom, I can write left and right , I’m shy and never good with talking, but great with writing . I can knit better with my left than I can with my right hand.a lot of times, I pick up a folk and eat, and then realize what I’m doing, and switch. I can relate to a lot of what people are saying.

  25. PAULINE says:

    my mom was telling my sister to teach her son to write righthand,and he was a lefty, and I over heard her her I taught Pauline to write right handed. I have spatial problems, shy, cant express myself well, great writer, and into trouble a lot when a kid, and always physical exhausted slept all the time .I didn’t remember this remark until last year, I always wondered why, and I am can write left bet and right ok I picked up knitting with my left hand better than my left.

  26. Xavi says:

    My father used to beat us: my mom end up in the hospital really really bad once and left him. My sister and me had to live four years in my grandfather’s house. He was a good man but also very strict. He didn’t knew better and felt that using your left hand showed a lack of manners and was a sign of ideology maybe? idk.
    I remember him hitting the dinner table with his fist: eat with your right hand!
    So I had to use my right hand. I remember breaking a lot of glasses, which in return made my grandfather yell even more: it was like a circle.
    But finally did it! I learn to use my right hand. I remember watching myself using my right hand and being proud.

    I’m extremely clumsy and my hand-writing is horrible. I’m shy, depressive, I stutter a lot, have bad memory, etc etc., all the things you mention (except I don’t have any reading difficulties, and don’t remember wetting my bed), I tried to change back but just couldn’t.

    But I’ll tell you something new, something I haven’t read here: whenever I exercise (like lifting weights or similar) my left arm muscles develop faster. Also, I can hit harder with my left hand.

  27. Camilla says:

    Can this be corrected later in life?

  28. Bibi says:

    I never knew I was left-handed at birth till my sister recently told me. I was a little bit annoyed because I wish I was part of the minority – left handed people.
    I researched online to find out if there was any implication of such a thing.
    Lo and behold, some of the implications describes me.
    I use to wet my bed till I was 14.
    I was to be creative with my hands. I could mold clay into beautiful things. I could draw nicely. Now, I can’t draw at all. I tried molding clay and it was terrible.
    I get tired in my brain easily.
    I’ve suffered depression.
    I’m always tongue-tied when I’m speaking
    Very shy and introverted
    I bite my nails.
    The only place i score is that i have a good handwriting!

  29. 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.

  30. 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!

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