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The Challenges of Raising a Left-Handed Child

By HERWriter
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challenges raising your left-handed child MonkeyBusiness Images/PhotoSpin

How Many Lefties are Among Us?

Statistics show that about 1 out of every 10 people worldwide are left-handed.

James T. deKay, author of The Natural Superiority of the Left-Hander, says, “[I]f both parents are left-handed, there’s a good chance that 50 percent of their children will be left-handed, too. But if neither parent is a lefty, the probability shrinks to only 2 percent.”

Famous lefties include Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Julius Caesar, Winston Churchill and Barack Obama.

How Will I Know if my Child is Left-handed?

Some parents will be able to tell which hand a child prefers by as young as age 3 but for most, this happens around age 5. (2)

A quick left-handed test is just to watch which hand your child uses to handle a spoon, or pick up and throw or roll a ball.

Challenges and Advantages for Left-handed Children

Perhaps one of the lingering challenges is the historical view that being left-handed was a bad thing. I still hear conversations amongst some of my parenting friends about whether or not they should try to teach their lefty to be a righty.

Gina Landfair, an occupational therapist at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, says, “ ‘[D]on’t force a round peg into a square hole. If you suspect your child’s a lefty, don’t attempt to transform him into a righty. This just causes more problems later.’” (2)

It can also cause physiological problems as in the case of my uncle who was forced by his teachers to use his right hand instead of his left, and it actually gave him migraines and made him throw up.

Writing presents a challenge in terms of:

• Positioning of the paper – Lefties cannot write on paper positioned vertically. It needs to be tilted.

• Grip on the pen/pencil – Lefties tend to use a “hook” kind of grasp so they can see what they’re writing, but should be encouraged not to do that

• Smearing ink – Be sure to buy quick drying pens and watch out for markers as lefties will smear the ink across the page as they write.

• Computer use – Your child will need a left-handed mouse.

You can read more writing tips in this article Tips for Raising a Lefty.

Many daily activities can also present challenges most of us wouldn’t think of such as:

• Tying shoes – Try demonstrating shoe tying in a mirror, so your child can see how it’s done. It’s also an idea for your child to practice tying the shoes with them off, and then with them on. (2)

• Cutting with scissors and crafts – Your child will need scissors especially made for lefties. Tri-tip crayons and pencil grips will help your child with craft implements designed for right-handers. You can see more tips on that in Help for left handed children.

• Playing a musical instrument or sports – Left-handed guitars are available and piano is a two-handed affair, though the dominant hand will be playing the bass instead of the melody. Kind of confusing.

Tennis, baseball and hockey all offer equipment for lefties, and soccer doesn’t require any kind of specialized lefty-versus-righty equipment.

• In the kitchen – Hand-cranking can openers are designed for right-handed people. Electric or “over-the-top” can openers are lefty-friendly options.

• Buttons and zippers – Girls clothes traditionally have the zippers and buttons made for right-handers, and boys for left-handers.

Lastly, we really need to help lefties take full advantage of the strengths that come from being left-handed.

“Research suggests the right hemisphere of the brain is dominant in left-handers” and show advantages in spatial awareness and perception that come in handy in sports and other activities “demanding rapid reactions and good spatial judgment such as tennis and fencing. Many also seem to excel in other right hemisphere functions such as visual concepts, creativity and music.” (5)

So, let your lefty be a lefty and discover a new world with your child.


1. Raising a Left-Handed Child in a Right-Handed World. Stevens, Cara. Parents.com. Web. Accessed: Mar 31, 2014

2. Tips for Teaching a Left-handed Child. Douglass Fliess, Sue. Education.com. Web. Accessed: Mar 31, 2014.

3. Help for left handed children. Anything Left Handed. Web. Accessed: Mar 31, 2014.

4. Raising a lefty. Murray Giles, Caitlin. Chicago Parent. Web. Accessed: Mar 31, 2014.

5. Tips for Raising a Lefty. Ripton, Nancy. Canadian Family. Web. Accessed: Mar 31, 2014.

Reviewed April 1, 2014
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

Add a Comment20 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

Wow, you can tell this was written by someone who doesn’t really know anything beyond heresy about being left handed. It’s not even properly researched. The whole thing reads like left handed people are suffering from a disability that people need to be more understanding of.

“Leaf handed” indeed. Is this a new slur, just being lazy, or does the author feel that an article about left handed people isn't really worth the effort to proof read or correct?

My grandfather, my cousin, myself and one of my kids are the left handers in my family. I also have two children that are right handed. It's not a challenge to teach someone who uses the opposite hand. In fact, it's a bit easier, because you can tell them "mirror what I do".

Going through this ummm “article” point by point….

Lefties do not require the paper to be tilted any more than right handed people do. I've even seen right handed people write completely vertically.

Why should left handed people be encouraged not to hold the pen however they want? Or anyone else for that matter? (“lefties tend to use a “hook” kind of grasp so they can see what they’re writing, but should be encouraged not to do that”) To put what was said another way; ‘Left handed people should be discouraged from being able to see what they are doing.’ That’s just plain idiotic.

Pencils are much more likely to smear when used. Especially since markers are generally used for drawing, and not writing. Drawing uses a whole different style of arm and hand movements. And really, most kids get ink all over their hands no matter how they write. And they all grow out of it.

Your child will not need a left handed mouse. To pick a point, any mouse is ambidextrous. You simply change the button configuration in the settings. If your child uses a computer, odds are that they will use a computer somewhere other than at home, too. Teach them to use a mouse with a right handed configuration (the default setting they all come with) and they will not have to try and adapt every time they are not at home.

Tying shoes is easier for left handed people. It’s a proven fact that shoes come untied less if you do the knot “left handed”. There is no need to demonstrate it in a mirror, because watching someone else already “mirrors” it. It’s a good idea for ALL children to practice tying shoes with them off as well as on. I am not sure why it's noted as something only left handed people should do.

Most right handed scissors work just fine left handed. Special crayons are some sort of marketing gimmick to take advantage of people who are right handed and feel guilty about it. Spend the extra $$ if you want, but know that it is not necessary at all. Pencil grips are for writing bumps and people with grip issues. It doesn't make a figs difference whether a person is left or right handed.

Playing a musical instrument or playing sports is NOT confusing. Not even “kinda”. Musical instruments require both hands no matter who is holding it, and someone new to playing one will learn it just the same as everyone else. Sports are pretty easy if the person is the opposite handed from you, because “mirror what I do” is a lot easier when the coach and student can face each other.

My parents had an electric can opener, and it was a pain in the asterisk to use with either hand. I got a manual can opener. After 20 years, my “hand crank” off the shelf can opener gave out, and I bought another one - off the shelf. Both are equally easy to use for a left handed person, even though they are of quite different design from each other.

Buttons and zippers are not left handed or right handed. Plackets face different ways because way back in the day, a woman had to have someone help her with all the layers of garment that had to be fastened. So they faced the way it was easier for the helper to do up. As a left handed person, I can say that I have never in my life had an issue with the way a placket faces. Neither have my left handed relatives. In fact, this article is the first I had heard of it being an issue at all. So it probably isn't a real issue.

I really don’t know why this article was even written. Most of the things noted here actually don’t make any difference, and a few are just plain false. Your left handed child will learn to manipulate things and use the tools life requires of them JUST FINE.

February 10, 2015 - 4:00pm
HERWriter (reply to Anonymous)

You know what, there's no sense in getting grumpy about it. You have some very valid points. Thank you for sharing them.

And I don't see Leaf-handed at all. I see left-handed. Everyone makes typos and every once in a while things slip through (one of those instances where neither spell check nor grammar check will catch that one).

It was properly researched, but inspired by some of the difficulties people in my family have experienced (including my son, father and uncle) growing up. Maybe people have experienced things differently. That's what comments are meant for.

I really don't understand why people are so upset about this article. If you have a different perspective, share it. Doesn't mean the article was wrong. There are probably many people out there who are experiencing left-handedness for the first time and wonder what it's like, and that's what I was attempting to address. Like, one common thing we always found when sitting down with either my son, father or uncle is having to switch sides at the table so we're not bumping elbows.

March 7, 2015 - 7:03am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Horrible article from a horrible website. What is wrong with my gender that we require a website to make us feel good

February 24, 2015 - 8:33am
HERWriter (reply to Anonymous)

There is nothing wrong with "our gender", but we have a different perspective and different issues that affect only our bodies. This site is meant to educate, empower women with knowledge that they might not get from anywhere else (look at Michelle's story). I don't understand what's so horrible about this article. You may not agree with the perspective of it, but doesn't mean it might not be valuable to someone else.

March 7, 2015 - 7:06am
EmpowHER Guest

This article was ridiculous and totally wrong in its assumption that lefties should be "handled" any differently than anyone else. I have a leftie grandson and he does everything with what ever hand he deems necessary. But he always writes with his left, only difference that is obvious from his sibling. Get a grip and stop trying to make issues where there are none, we have enough to deal with already!!!!!

February 7, 2015 - 1:54pm
EmpowHER Guest

I an a leftie, hubster is a leftie. The only one in each of our families. Our oldest is also. We all got along just fine in a right hand world. This article is nonsense. We all use regular can openers, scissors and computer mice. All is right in our world. No need to tell people how to to raise a left handed child.... let them be, no mention of their "issue"(LOL) and they will be just fine. Sheeesh. Stupid article.

February 6, 2015 - 6:56am
EmpowHER Guest

I am a lefty, raised a lefty, never was an issue other than with one set of small-minded grandparents. This article makes a mountain out of a molehill.

February 6, 2015 - 6:14am
EmpowHER Guest

This article is a joke right? I'm left handed and proud of it. And I never encountered any of the stupid issues mentioned above. I can open a can, use regular scissors, play a guitar AND a piano. Sheesh. You make it sound like we are disabled. What 1950's article did you cut and paste this from?

February 3, 2015 - 7:25am
HERWriter (reply to Anonymous)

Thank you for sharing your perspective and experience. Unfortunately, that's not everyone's experience and not everyone will be able to make the adjustments you did.

I don't understand why everyone is so angry. If you have a different experience, share it. No need to get angry about it.

And I'm highly insulted that you think this article was cut and pasted. All my articles are researched and written from scratch and many are inspired by my own experiences or someone in my family. I guess that means my experiences and perspective is stupid? I didn't think yours was. I thought it was worth sharing. I was also writing from the perspective of a right-handed person, who plays piano and wondered what it was like to have the dominant hand being the right in sheet music for a left-handed person.

No need to get grumpy to voice a different opinion.

March 7, 2015 - 7:19am
EmpowHER Guest

I cannot believe that someone would have to wright and article on lefties. Let them be and all will be fine, there's no need to make them feel different.

October 29, 2014 - 3:30pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.



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