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Should we make our son eat with his right hand?
Anne Orlando
There are countless legends about left-handedness and surprisingly little uncontested information about its causes or impact on young learners. Would you believe that, ever since the time of Plato (and probably long before him), people have speculated on what causes a child to be left-handed—and we are still not certain?

A few things we do know are that it occurs in about one out of every 10 children, and that three times as many boys as girls will exhibit the pattern. Because we live in a “right-handed world,” many parents have tried to influence their children to prefer their right hands. All sorts of developmental and behavioral problems in children used to be attributed to such a forced change of handedness. Today few people consider such a change problematic unless it is done under emotionally charged conditions that significantly upset the child. And there is no evidence whatsoever that left-handed children have poorer handwriting than right-handed children. (In my opinion, most children these days have poor handwriting; must be the early exposure to a computer keyboard with a corresponding lack of emphasis on handwriting.)

Handedness often does not fully declare itself until a child is at least 3, so your son may yet turn out to be a rightie. If not, don’t worry about his handwriting. Provide him with toys that require the use of both hands (e.g., toys that would need to be held with one hand and manipulated in some way with the other) and let him improve his skills with both hands. And reassure your husband that football, soccer, baseball and tennis are indifferent to which hand a child prefers and that, if it turns out to be necessary, left-handed golf clubs are available! By the way, two of our last three presidents (George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton) have been left-handed.

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