Growing up in the eighties as a left-handed child was an interesting experience. Throughout my childhood, many adults took it upon themselves to try and ‘teach’ me to be right-handed. My parents never allowed any cruelty or force to be used, but these well-intentioned, gentle lessons did me a world of good. In the left-handed child, a certain amount of ambidexterity is a boon. You don’t need to discourage the use of the left hand to make good use of the right. Here are three things I am happy someone took the extra time to teach me.
My elementary school was not equipped with left-handed scissors. No matter, my grandmother had been encouraging me to use them with my right hand for years. Left-handed scissors are a pain to find, and are usually more expensive. Worse, by not teaching your child to use them right-handed, almost all the pairs they encounter in school and at work as an adult will be useless to them. Take the time to work on that right-handed cutting. Don’t insist, but make the projects fun and entertaining, and resist the urge to buy left-handed scissors. Yes, it is frustrating to learn to do something with the ‘wrong’ hand. But it will come if you are patient. As an adult, I use my right hand to cut with scissors. I can’t even operate a pair with my left hand. I need no special equipment. Your left-handed child will be thankful not to need any, either.
Simple manual dexterity of the right hand is incredibly important to left-handed children. Encourage typing and playing of two-handed musical instruments, such as piano or clarinet, from a very young age. It does no good to change surroundings to make it easier for a left-handed child, the world will not change for them. Make games out of it. My Grandmother bought an old adding machine and I would play ‘office’ with it by making notes with my left hand and using the adding machine with my right. By having the pencil in my dominant hand, it seemed only natural to use the right to operate the machine. The same is true with musical instruments, some video games, and sports. There is no choice of which hand to use, you must simply use both and use them well. As a teen, math homework was a breeze as I never put down the pencil as I used the calculator, and as an adult I can operate the computer mouse and write without letting go of either utensil.
Finally, and the most important lesson you can teach a child who is left-handed is to know their limits. For me, this means no handguns, no chainsaws, and no manual-transmission vehicles. Guns are a right-handed invention. They are deadly weapons in clumsy hands. My right hand is still clumsy. I have heard they do make left-handed guns, but I think I’ll pass. The same applies to chainsaws, except they are also extraordinarily heavy and are supported by the right wrist and forearm muscles, which could be deadly if your right arm is your weakest. Once again, I have heard tales of left-handed chainsaws, but as both my parents were right-handed, it became my job to split the logs with the ambidextrous ax and leave the cutting to them. Manual-transmission cars are another no-go. A car is a dangerous piece of equipment if you are not in complete control at all times. Trusting my ‘dumb’ right hand in that situation, with others’ lives at stake, is not an option. Some left-handers can operate these things flawlessly. For me, it’s a matter of my safety and safety of others.
In short, some of the most valuable lessons you will ever teach your left-handed child about his handedness have to do more with being flexible and working on ambidexterity than that it is ‘wrong’ to be as he is. If you work on encouraging as much use of the right hand as possible and do not supply a bunch of one-of-a-kind tools, your child can learn to not be hindered by being left-handed.