When Parenting Goes Left: Tips For Raising a Left-Handed Child

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left-handed childIf you are a right-handed mama raising a left-handed child, this is the post you never knew you needed — until you needed it. There are countless things no one warned me about during my journey through motherhood and the struggles of raising a left-handed child are one of them. All my right-handed mommas with left-handed children you know exactly what I mean. The simplest things like sitting next to each other for a meal can be, well, difficult.

I am right-handed. My husband is also right-handed. Our two daughters are, you guessed it, right-handed. Then there is our oldest child and only son Kingston, our left-handed child. The one who seems to be really taking our family motto, “Different is Dope,” to heart. When we first created this motto it was to help him embrace the fact that he is autistic. We had no idea the motto would carry over into other areas in his life.

Parenting a left-handed child may have its challenges, but actually being a left-handed child is also challenging. So my first piece of advice is to have patience. These children are living in a right-handed world. Most things cater to people whose dominant hand is their right.

Consider the Classroom Setting

When it’s time for back-to-school, be mindful of supplies and even your child’s desk in their classroom. If your child classroom has desks made for right-handed children, this can be a problem. My son sits in small groups in his classroom now, so his classroom actually has tables instead of the traditional desks. I’m happy to announce we no longer have that problem. I know this may seem a matter of fact, but left-handed children need left-handed scissors. Spiral notebooks can be problematic, and even the mouse at the computer can be trouble. I don’t know about you, but none of this other than the scissors ever crossed my mind in the beginning.

Two of our biggest struggles was learning to write and learning to tie his shoe. I’m told learning to write can be the most stressful thing for a left-handed child. First and foremost be sure to let your child’s teacher know they are left-handed. Also, be sure to teach your child to vocalize to their teachers that they are left-handed. I made the mistake of not informing my son’s teacher in the beginning and things got a little more difficult for him for a minute.

When my son first started school, his teacher at the time insisted on making him write with his right hand. When I spoke to her about it, she stated that most kids his age don’t have a dominant hand. Now, this is true for most preschoolers and maybe even older children, but this was not the case for my child. When he colored, he reached for a crayon with his left hand. When he ate dinner, he reached for his utensils with his left hand. When he grabbed a book off the bookshelf, he reached with his left hand. He rarely went back and forth between the two. He used his right hand about as much as I used my left, and that’s a stretch. Being a mom trying to juggle things, I actually used my left to grab and hold things more than he used his right. It was quite obvious that his left hand was his dominant one. When I spoke to my cousin who is a teacher herself, she informed me that when her husband was in school they did the same thing to him because it was easier for them as right-handed people to teach him. Luckily for me, it only took one more meeting to inform them that he was, in fact, left-handed and will not be forced to learn in a manner that wasn’t natural for him. I offered to provide any special supplies that they may need, but she quickly assured me she had things covered and instantly assisted him in the manner that suited his needs.

Help with Handwriting

A few more quick tips for helping your child learn to write is to teach them to position their paper correctly. By angling their paper with the left side pointing up, their writing arm will be at a natural position to help them write on the lines. Also by teaching them to place their paper on the left side of their body, it will be easy for them to actually see what they are writing. Showing them how to hold their pencil correctly can help keep their hand from smudging the paper and blocking the view of their paper when they are writing as well. Have them try to hold their pencil about 1.5 inches or so above the tip. Also, encourage them to use their right hand to help hold their paper still.

Learning How to Tie Those Shoes

Now on to our biggest struggle, leaning to tie shoelaces. The advice I received was to go for the bunny ear method and try to steer away from using directions such as left or right. Also when you are teaching them this method, place yourself in front of your child so they can mirror your actions. If you have never heard of the bunny hear method, it’s simple. Fold each end of the lace into a ” bunny ear.” You can hold the “ears” in place between your thumb and pointer finger on each hand. Cross the bunny ears so that they form an “X.” Loop the bottom bunny ear over and through the top bunny ear — this will create a second knot. Pull the bunny ears out to the side away from the shoe. This will create a square knot that will not easily come undone and will hold the shoe in place. It’s probably the easiest method and the one we used for our right-handed child as well. If you are still having trouble or you are a more visual person, there are tons of videos on YouTube.

Recognize the Dinnertime Struggle

To end this piece on a lighter note, my final and most helpful tip is to always, always seat your left-handed child at the end of the dinner table with their left hand on the outer side of the table. If you are right-handed and have ever eaten next to a left-handed person, then you know the elbow bump struggle. I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but it took me forever to realize what the issue was when eating dinner next to my son. Being the mama’s boy he is, he always wants to sit next to me when having dinner, but I could never eat comfortably when we sat together. Then one night while out to eat with family, a light just switched on. We were constantly invading each others space reaching for our drinks, picking up our utensils, our elbows bumping as we tried to eat. That night settled it — he gets the seat on the end across from me so we all can enjoy our meal peacefully.

I hope these tips and tricks were helpful, and if you have any of your own, please share! I’m always down to learn anything that can make both mine and his life easier. We are all here to help because parenting goes left sometimes, and that’s perfectly okay!

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