Do Left-Handers Make Better Fathers?

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Recent studies on the variations in skills between left-handers and right-handers have revealed fascinating and surprising differences. As we prepare to celebrate Father's Day at Lefty's San Francisco (http://www.leftyslefthanded.com), we consider which of these left-handed skills might be especially valuable in parenting, especially among Dads. As a percentage of the population, lefties are growing. Since the majority are men, this may prove a great benefit for their kids..

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Despite the obstacle course laid out in their path, the left-handed appear to be having a heyday. Their numbers ... show up disproportionately in the lists of newsmakers and record breakers. - Melissa Roth, The Left Stuff

*As the annual Dad Appreciation Day approaches, we’d like to consider the question of who makes the better father – a lefty or a righty? Lefty’s San Francisco has a store and website (http://www.leftyslfthanded.com) specializing in tools and gifts for left-handers, and we’re very interested in making sure left-handers, of all types, are fully appreciated. Recent studies on the physiological differences between strong right-handers, and mixed or left-handers, have brought to light a number of striking variations, which bear on this question.

Let’s start at the beginning – caring for a baby and all the attendant gear, while trying to answer the phone. Multi-tasking. It turns out that lefties have better overall coordination because they’ve had to use their right hands extensively just to survive in a right-handed world, so both sides of their bodies work pretty well and are in good condition. This is one of the factors making them better athletes in many competitive sports.

For left and mixed handers, the neural pathways between left and right hemispheres of the brain are usually larger than those of right-handers – another reason for better overall coordination. As anyone who has tried to take a baby with them to the store, or along on any mundane errand can attest, the possession of an additional good arm and hand is a life-saver.

Or consider this – left-handers are better at reading emotional cues – in both people and animals. “Face recognition and the processing of emotional cues usually falls under the right hemisphere’s command”, explains Melissa Roth in her remarkably illuminating book, "The Left Stuff: How the Left-Handed have Survived and Thrived in a Right-Handed World" (2005, M. Evans Publisher). She goes on to quote a 2002 Canadian study which determined that lefties were far better than righties at “detecting deception”. On top of that, it turns out that a disproportionately high percentage of psychiatrists are lefties.

Imagine what an advantage these psychological and emotional skills would be for any parent! From reading the baby’s wants before he or she can talk, to contending with teenagers, parents would benefit enormously from being able to understand the visual and emotional messages of their children.

Among the host of advantages enjoyed by lefties, perhaps the most useful parenting skill is their much vaunted adaptability. From toddlerdom on, left-handers have had to adapt to a world designed for someone else. From right-handed desks and scissors at school, to pens that smear and writing that goes the wrong direction, to right-handed sports equipment, musical instruments, and cooking utensils, lefties have just had to try harder and to shrug off failure and try again.

Are lefties more creative because they have to be, or due to the way their brains are wired? When things don’t work for them in the “normal” way, they have to figure out another approach. They can’t give in to frustration, and are forced to develop skills to contend with it.

The best parenting skill of all, though, is this. According to Ms. Roth, lefty brains have a bigger “humor zone”. Their ranks include the likes of W.C.Fields, Jim Carrey, Charlie Chaplin, and Tina Fey.

And yes, lefties are also often Very Successful (good providers). Left-handers are disproportionately represented among political and military leaders- think Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Napoleon, and 4 of the last 6 U. S. Presidents (Obama, Clinton, H. Bush, and Gerald Ford).

All of these qualities seem especially valuable in rearing a child today – when the dad is often as much or more involved than the mom, and the only constant in the world is change. Perhaps this is why so many lefties are heartthrobs - left-handedness is not a dominant gene, but one that's very important to the species!

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Lucia Howard
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