Never Force Left-Handed Child to be Right-Handed
Update: An edited form of this article was published in October 2011 edition of Circles Magazine.
I have used my right hand to perform major activities all my life. Even though my performance has remained average in most cases like quality of handwriting, sports and sketching, I considered it normal. Some time back at a family gathering my mother discussed with someone the complexities of bringing up children and I was surprised to learn that I was born left-handed.
She said she discovered I was left-handed due to the amount of pressure I exerted on her finger with each hand when two months old. At such a tender age she made sure my left hand remained immobile most of the time (though not uncomfortably) and was forced to use right hand freely that eventually became my dominant hand.
It was confusing for me at first but then a lot of unexplained habits began to fall into perspective such as attempting to pick something heavy from left-hand and then switching to right, preferring to chew food at the left side of mouth, skipping step while climbing stairs in order to land on the other foot etc. I often thought myself clumsy whenever something happened and didn’t thought it amiss until I discovered I was left-eye dominant a few years before the above mentioned family gathering.
I bought a guide for Snooker game and it gave details of an exercise to know your dominant eye. To increase shot accuracy, you need to place your Cue Stick beneath the dominant eye when playing shot and the book stated that born left-handed people, in most cases, have left-dominant eye. As you can expect, the exercise concluded that I was left-eye dominant. I didn’t focused more on the details and enjoyed the higher game accuracy that I now enjoyed.
After the revelation by my mother, I decided to do some research. As science explains, our brain is divided into two halves (hemispheres). Left hemisphere affects the right side of your body and right hemisphere affects the left side of the body. The left hemisphere deals with logic, words and language, mathematics, science, order/pattern perception, practical and reality. The right hemisphere deals with imagination, creativity, spatial perception, “big picture” orientation, symbols, images and feelings. If the left side of the brain is dominant, the person prefers right hand and vice versa. Our whole physical being is interconnected ever since we are born and forcing to go against natural dominance puts a lot of harmful pressure.
What more, about 85-92% of world’s population is estimated to be born right-handed which also causes some bias against left-handers as parents under societal pressure, ignorance or religious miscommunication forces their children to switch to right hand.
Forcing a left-handed to be right-handed causes reduced activity in the dominant right hemisphere and increase activity in the non-dominant side. Since creativity and imagination are dominant parts of right brain, they will remain under-developed and the left-side of the brain sees increased activity that deals with reality, facts and logic … characteristics that are opposite of the person’s true potential. The consistent use of non-dominant part of brain affects the personality while growing up and the adaptability can be difficult. Forced right-handers have to work a lot harder to improve handwriting, take more time to adjust in using tools like scissors and knives, are unable to perform better at activities (like sports) than natural right-handers, get tired easily and may even have language difficulties due to possible dominancy conflict between the two halves of the brain.
Comparing this with my own childhood I found some stark similarities. I had to use children’s handwriting improvement book until 8th grade to finally able to write clearly. I loved to draw and paint as a child but no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t improve and finally gave up by 7th grade. I was scolded repeatedly at home and in class for being a daydreamer and not paying attention. I always loved stories (and still do) and read fantasy novels most of my free time. I hate mathematics and enjoy history. I am able to think logically and analyze in a rather forced way and tire easily compared to when I am thinking something completely new and imagining a new story or concept to write down. The number of similarities is too long to fully list down.
There are select few who are ambidextrous (don’t have dominant hemisphere or so little dominant that it doesn’t affect much) and such individuals don’t have that much hard time in switching. Unfortunately I am not one of them and thus unable to achieve my full potential.
This doesn’t mean that left-handers are devoid of logic or right-handers lack creativity, it just points towards what comes as naturally and more easily to the person due to dominant side of brain. So if anyone you know is forcing a born left-handed toddler or child to be right-handed, please enlighten them and stop them for hindering the child’s growth. It is not advisable to force and yes, it is not un-Islamic as well to be left-handed as some believe.
For those who are interested in knowing if they are left-brain dominant or right-brain, watch this image below and see in which direction the woman moves (clock-wise or anti-clockwise).
If she is moving clock-wise, that means you are right-brain dominant and vice versa. If you focus a bit (or maybe a bit harder), the figure may turn her direction suddenly and begin rotating the other way.
The level of focus required to achieve that proves how much dominant on side of your brain is. In my case, the figure continuously moves clock-wise and no matter how much I try, I am unable to move it anti-clockwise. However I have seen others exclaiming how the figure all of a sudden change direction even though to me the movement is still in the same clock-wise direction.
Once again refer to this chart and see what characteristics each brain has and remember, never force born left-handed child to use right-hand permanently. You may teach them to use right but let them be left for their own good.