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Should we discourage our toddler from eating with his left hand?
Q: My 2½-year-old son always uses his left hand to hold his utensils or pick up finger food. My husband thinks that if he’s left-handed he will have poor handwriting, so he demands that our son use his right hand. Is there any truth to this? I don’t agree with my husband and this really bothers me. My son is uncomfortable and awkward when he tries to eat with his right hand. Can you give me some advice?
A: First, I want to reassure you that many children do not develop a clear hand preference by 2½. Your son may well be in that group. I would not try to change him to his right hand if you are convinced that he strongly prefers his left. If he wavers, or uses one hand some of the time and the other at different times, you could encourage use of the right hand and see what happens. For now, base your actions on the evidence offered by the skill level he demonstrates with each hand. You indicate that he is awkward when using his right hand, and that fact should be fairly persuasive with your husband. Of course, he may turn out to be truly ambidextrous (and have a great future in baseball). But whatever you do, don’t make a big issue of it and force a change. That can create far more problems than just being left-handed.

As for poor handwriting, there is no evidence that the penmanship of left-handers is consistently worse than that of right-handers. And there are plenty of famous and successful people who are left-handed —President Clinton and the first President Bush, to mention a couple.

Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education