Chris and I are both right handed. Boy Child and Girl Child are both left handed. I hadn’t really considered left or right handedness to be of particular relevance to parenting until I found myself trying to reverse stuff like using knives and forks in order to teach them how to eat their dinner. Doing stuff backwards is surprisingly difficult. Particularly when you’re on the cack handed side anyway. There is some evidence that being left handed runs in the family. The only leftie in our family is the kids paternal Grandad. My Mum has a suspicion that she may have been a leftie but is old enough that it was still frowned upon when she was a child so she was simply forced to become right handed. This lack of available lefties to teach my kid’s life skills has made raising left handed children somewhat tricky.
What’s Different About Left Handed Children?
Around 10% of the population are left handed. Scientists haven’t yet worked out why such a small percentage of the population are effected but there are many theories about what it means to be left handed. The most common of these theories is that left handed people are “right brain dominant” and therefore more creative, however modern research suggests that it’s a bit more complicated than that. Left or right dominance isn’t only a feature of our hands, we also have eye, ear and foot dominance and there is in fact a much higher occurrence of left dominance in these areas than with handedness.
Whatever the reason, right handedness is far more common and, as a result, the world isn’t quite as straight forward for lefties. I first became aware of this when Boy Child came home from school with a sheet on how to form letters and there was one side for left handers and one side for right handers. Since then I’ve also discovered that scissors are a problem and writing neatly is more difficult. This is because we write right to left which makes it difficult for lefties. It also means that they tend to smudge their writing once they’re using ink. Other problems left handed children often encounter are things like instruments, tin openers and games controllers being the wrong way round. And if that wasn’t enough, even sleep can be negatively effected by being left handed.
Right Handed Parents – Left Handed Children
As the parents of two left handed children, there are several things we have struggled to teach them. Using a knife and fork was the first problem we encountered. Frankly, at 6 and 9, they still aren’t very good at it. For Girl Child, this is partly because her restricted diet means she rarely has need of a knife and fork. For Boy Child, anything involving his fine motor skills is challenging anyway. Adding needing to do it differently from us was always going to be a problem.
Hand writing has been a big problem area for Boy Child. I’m sure his left handedness has played a part in that. I found it really hard to get the correct formation for left handed letters in my head. That meant I struggled to be consistent when telling him the right way to do it. Left handed children quite often end up curling their hand over and writing from above. This is a habit that he’s found really hard to break. They do it in order that they can see what they’ve written rather than having their hand over it but it means they have less control over their pen so makes their handwriting messier. I’m keeping a close eye on Girl Child so that I can stop it before it starts.
Shoe laces were also a challenge. Apparently I do mine weirdly so it was decided that Chris should teach him. It was very had to work out how to reverse it for left hands. We’ve been lucky with Girl Child as they had to learn laces at Beavers and some other (presumably left handed) person taught her.
The other thing I’ve been quite aware of in parenting left handed children is to make sure they are aware of it. When they are doing things with other people, those people will assume they are right handed. I’ve taught my kids that, if someone is showing them how to do something with their hands, they need to tell them that they are left handed.
The Benefits of Being Left Handed
Once you’ve dealt with all that, there are some benefits to parenting left handed children. Research suggests that in left handed people, the two sides of the brain work better together. This leads to quicker thinking and better learning. Lefties are often also more adaptable as a result of the world not being quite set up for them. Being different from other people can also result in a higher level of independence and being comfortable with not being the same as everyone else. Great for resisting peer pressure in the teen years! Research also suggests that left handed people may be better at maths and sports.
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