Left-handedness is seen as something unusual. Left-handed children are starting to face difficulties in the family due to different spatial orientation – lateralization. Even more, difficulties await them at school.
In general, it is thought that a normally developed person uses the right side of the body more often and more frequently. This is especially true for the use of the arms and legs.
Research by Lippman H. S. shows that humans are not naturally oriented toward greater use of one side of the body. Investigating the movements of infants and young children, Lippman found that 5-month-old infants use both hands equally. But at the age of 12 months, 70% of children are more likely to use the right hand than the left hand. As a rule, parents think that the child is by nature right-handed, so they give it objects in its right hand.
This happens in the 6th month of the child’s life when it starts to rise from the ground on which it is lying, begins to sit alone, and grasps the objects around it. Thus, the child is increasingly practicing the use of the right hand, while it neglects the left hand. This will make it a practical right-handed man, although by nature it is a latent ambidexter, meaning it has more or less equal disposition to serve with both hands.
While most people are predisposed to developing the motor on both sides of the body equally, some are born with some prerequisite for using the left or right side.
It is natural for a child to accept right-handedness more easily under the influence of the right-handed environment. If the disposition of the motor on the left side of the body is more stressed it will make it difficult for the child to become accustomed to using its right hand. But the greater majority of such children will sooner or later adapt to the demands of the environment for the activities to be done with the right hand. There are also cases when the child perfects the use of both hands equally – ambidexter.
Children who, with complex activities, have difficulty using the right hand, instinctively shift all activities on the left hand, thereby making less use of the right hand. Therefore, they develop into permanent practical left-handers.
Environmental Influence on Lateralization
The habitual use of the right hand is a result of the environmental impact on the child.
History of Right Handedness
Man has created the right-handed civilization a long time ago, consciously insisting on the right-handed generation. Anthropologists have been trying to find the answer to this question, but no satisfactory solution has been found so far.
Debesse M. thinks that in ancient times, man used to fight with his right hand and in the left to wore a shield so that he could protect his heart during fights.
Hence, the habit of more active use of the right hand extended to tool handling and later to writing.
In contrast, other anthropologists believe that the right side of the body was given preference because it houses the liver, the heaviest abdominal organ that moves the center of gravity to the right.
This is what the test results show.
Hildreth G. (1949) ‘The development and training of hand dominance‘ concluded that young children are more likely to use the right hand when performing activities taught by their parents, such as eating with a spoon and fork. If they are allowed to eat with their fingers, children use their left hand as much as their right. In the case of girls, unlike boys, they use the right side earlier and more skillfully.
Also, there are twice as many left-handed children than right-handed children among children with nominal intelligence. This is because usually, mentally underdeveloped children with greater difficulty accept environmental impacts than those with nominal mental abilities.
The overwhelming majority of children become right-handed in early childhood based on the environmental impact, and later such lateralization is considered to be understandable.
Already in preschool age, in 80 – 90% of cases children are right-handed, whereas, in adults, only 3 – 5% are left-handed.
Consequences of Forcing Right-handedness
Parents are often concerned when they notice that their child uses the left hand more than the right hand. In doing so, they think that they must, as soon as possible, even force the child to use their right hand.
Therefore, they take away any object held by the child with their left hand and move it to the right. If a child opposes or persistently returns the spoon, pen, and other items in his or her left hand, parents often lose patience, become irritable, violent, and even punish them.
There are examples where preschool institutions take notes and tell parents about their child’s left-handedness. They often become obsessed with them and begin to take drastic measures to wean the use of their left hand.
Such thoughtless ambitions often provoke a child’s revolt by refusing to perform activities that it had previously done with the left hand. Parental frustration, through additional insistence on the child’s anger also causes abnormalities in their normal behavior.
This is just one of many examples of a child’s mental development disorder that occurs when the child is dominantly left-handed, but parents are forcing it to exclusively use the right hand. Such behavior disrupts functional structures in the children’s psyche and causes negative behavior.
It is in the nature of the child to respond with resistance to any violent upbringing. The resistance manifests itself in a variety of ways, most often in the form of defiance, obstinacy, and stubbornness.
A child’s resistance is especially strong if the environment forces him/her to engage in an activity that they do not have the capacity to do so and is an exceptional problem.
The parent’s unreasonable demands clash with the child’s psyche and the parent’s assessment in the performance of the activity is not sufficient to complete the task. This brings the child to a state of emotional tension, which is regularly manifested by a certain disorder in the function of the nervous system.
There are various disorders that are not of a physical nature but are interpreted as emotional conflicts, that is, chronic psychological tension. These are psychogenic or neurotic disorders.
A left-handed child, who is forced by parents to use the right hand only, often reacts with nervousness. Sometimes they will lose their appetite for eating, the next time they will start to urinate in bed while sleeping or trembling of the facial muscles – tics – will begin, nighttime fear attacks and even psychogenic vomiting will occur. But the most common is stuttering. Speech-controlled brain structures appear to be closely related to those that regulate the activities of the hands. This is why a violent change of hand function is sometimes reflected in impaired speech function.
It is a fact that there are more left-handed children who stutter than right-handed children. Left-handed children are more likely to stutter on the occasional use of the right hand as a result of insisting from the environment than those who are allowed to perform all activities with the left hand freely.
Parents become especially persistent in forcing a left-handed child to use their right hand when they go to school. Many teachers do the same. And they often ask such a child to write and draw with their right hand, warn them if they refuse, or start treating them as less valuable or as pupils with a defect. In doing so, those children are underestimated, neglected, disadvantaged, and parents are required to force them to use only the right hand.
This procedure forces the child to grow to resist school. The child at this age is not mature enough to separate its attitude towards learning from the attitude towards the teacher. It will love the school if the teacher wants it or hate it if the teacher hates it.
Therefore, the child will be less motivated to cope with school assignments, and so will the unpleasant emotions associated with the school as an institution. Such a child becomes a bad learner despite the normal intellectual capacity for successful schooling. If it starts to stutter, its difficulties at school become even greater. Emotional conflicts accumulate in the child, amplify his or her nervousness, and cause various forms of disturbing behavior.
These findings lead to the conclusion of how a left-handed child should be treated, in order to have a healthy psychological development.
Since the child lives in a predominantly right-handed environment, it is advisable to at least learn to write with the right hand. Left-handed writing is the most striking of all the activities of the left-handed. When writing with the left hand at school, a child often feels somewhat different from his or her classmates, and they sometimes see it as a whim or a mockery. This can make it difficult for it to adapt to the school collective.
Encouragement of Right-handedness
It is helpful for parents to encourage their children to use their right hand as early as preschool, as soon as they notice that it prefers to use the left. But it has to be done in a quiet, friendly and totally unobtrusive way. Without any objections, pointless items from its daily use should occasionally be moved from left to right.
It should be noted that, with the right hand, it will also skillfully handle if it tries to practice it. If the child is opposed, the parent must not be persistent in the endeavor, when the child returns the item in the left hand, the parent should only follow it up without comment. But after a while, the child should again be encouraged to use the right hand. This should be repeated patiently, without showing that one is disturbed, worried, or angry by the child’s left-handedness.
The parent should commend each child’s progress in learning the right-hand skills, which will encourage the child to use the right hand more and more.
When it goes to school, the child will not find it difficult to accept writing with the right hand. A sensible teacher will be pleased with what the child has written with their right hand, though the letters may not be too consistent and readable. Instead of banning the use of the left hand when writing, the teacher should encourage them to use the right hand as often as possible.
In other activities such as drawing, carving, modeling, etc., the child should not insist on right-handedness. Because if we restrict the child to the use of the right hand only to one activity, let alone writing, the left-handed child will accept it. But if we ask it to reorient everything to the use of the right hand only, it will not succeed and is very likely to completely refuse right-hand activation for all subsequent skills.
Some left-handed children can succeed in writing with both their left and right hand. When they overcome writing with the right hand, the writing will for a long time be poor, unreadable and untidy. This should be taken into account when evaluating handwriting, so a left-handed child who uses the right hand for writing should never be expected to have a good handwriting like natural right-handers.
But there are also left-handed children who persistently exercise the right hand, succeed in replenishing its naturally weaker motor disposition or even develop it even more than right-handed children. Then the child has a particularly good handwriting and a strong sense of symmetry. Then we are talking about compensation or overcompensation of a naturally inherent functional lower value.
Rare are the children who, despite their peaceful and patient encouragement, fail to master right-hand writing. These children must be allowed to use the left hand in all other activities, besides writing. In that case, we will reject any attempt to get the child to use the right hand.
If the child has started to stutter or demonstrate some other form of nervousness or disturbed behavior due to the use of the right hand, the attempt to use the right hand should be abandoned immediately. Unless there are other reasons for psychological disorders, the child will stabilize itself for a short time. It is only when stuttering and other signs of emotional conflict disappear that the child can unobtrusively stimulate the use of its right hand, thereby rejecting any attempt at coercion or authoritarian rigidity.