W Sitting: What is it and why should I correct it?

Many parents have heard the phrase “W sitting” and that it is “bad” for their child to sit this way. However, many are unaware of the reason that children are discouraged from sitting in this position.

First of all – what is W sitting?

W Sitting is when a child is sitting on their bottom with both knees bent and their legs turned out away from their body. If you were to look at the child from above their head, his or her legs will be in the shape of the letter “W.” Their knees and thighs may be touching together or spread apart.

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For many children, this is a preferred or comfortable position, and they sit that way without even thinking about it. Often times, kids who sit in this position are doing so in order to make up for weaknesses they may have in their hips and trunk. The added stability of this position allows them to play with toys in an upright sitting position without worrying about falling over.

It is very common (and normal) for kids to move in and out of this position when playing on the floor. Problems from this position arise when the child sits in that way for an extended period of time. However, as a parent, it is important to recognize when your child is sitting in the W position and to correct it for the following reasons.

  • W sitting increases the risk of the child’s hip and leg muscles becoming short and tight – this can then negatively affect their coordination, balance, and the development of gross motor skills down the road
  • W sitting can increase a child’s risk of hip dislocation – especially those who already have hip dysplasia (which may not be formally diagnosed)
  • When sitting in the W position, kids are unable to rotate their upper body
    • Makes it difficult for the child to reach across the body and perform tasks that involve using both hands together or crossing their arm over from one side to the other
      • This will later affect their ability to perform writing skills and other table-top activities that are important in school
    • W Sitting hinders the development of a hand preference
      • The child is only able to use objects on the right side of the body with the right hand and those on the left side of the body with the left hand – this could lead to coordination difficulties later in life
  • W sitting makes it difficult for the child to shift their weight from one side of their body to the other
    • The ability to shift weight from one side of the body to the other is especially important in standing balance and when developing the ability to run and jump
  • W sitting does not allow the child to develop strong trunk muscles
    • In this position, the child’s trunk muscles do not have to work as hard to keep them upright – instead they are relying on the wide base of support of their legs and joint structures to keep them upright

If you see your child W Sitting, rather than simply saying, “Don’t sit like that!” it is a good idea for you to suggest other ways for them to sit such as:

  • Long sitting
  • Side sitting
  • Criss-Cross or Tailor sitting
  • Sitting on a small bench

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These positions better allow your child to use both hands at the same time on both sides of the body. In addition, these sitting positions help them to shift their weight from side to side more easily, and they encourage your child to use their back and abdominal muscles to maintain the upright sitting position. At first, your child may be resistant to the correction when you ask him or her not to sit in the W position. However, it is important that you consistently make this correction when you see your child sitting in this way, as it can impact their growth and development in a significant way.

Feel free to ask your child’s physical or occupational therapist any questions you may have about W sitting at any time! They can help you come up with different ways to encourage your child to sit in different positions and different activities that your child may enjoy when sitting in these positions.

 

Kelly Askins, PT, DPT

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14 thoughts on “W Sitting: What is it and why should I correct it?

  1. Cassidy

    I sat like this when I was little from the age 4 to age 10 or 11 and after that it hurt to sit that way. This last summer (14yrs old) I had to go to physical therapy because naturally my feet point outwards and not straight like other people. I also had to go because I had horrible knees and hips, it hurt to stand for a long time. A long time was not even 2 minutes and I would want to sit down. Now for cheerleading and golf I would loose my balance more than the other people would. Don’t let your kids do this because it will hurt them later on.

    Reply
  2. Elizabeth

    W sitting is also a sign of a possible connective tissue disorder called ehlers danlos syndrome typical in EDS -HT also known as EDS type 3.

    Reply
  3. TwistyLegs

    Cassidy, I have the same problem as you.. very sad indeed and I wish all parents prevent their children from sitting this way.
    However keep in mind that whether you (and myself) sitting that way caused our legs malalignment is debatable (this is according to doctors I met).. Some say we sat like that because it was most comfortable.
    In any case any parent should prevent (and explain WHY).. I remember my parents did tell me to avoid sitting like that once.. but it was just something they told me.. like “don’t do that”.. a child would be much more receptive if (s)he understood why (s)he shouldn’t do something..

    Reply
  4. Mommyof4

    My daughter is in her room currently SLEEPING in the “W” position with her torso/head forward on bed…. I see no posts about this. Is this indicative of anything!?

    Reply
  5. Leigh

    My daughter has been tailor sitting for close to three years until someone pointed out that it was bad. She has perfect posture when tailor sitting, but slumps in the other positions. Am I trading bad hips for a bad spine?

    Reply
  6. Bongy

    Yhoo tanx a lot this information… My 1 year 4 months son sits like this always and I thought he was js lazy n its normal. I’ll start correcting him now

    Reply
  7. Michelle

    Are there any studies that confirm this? I trust the innate movements of kids more than someone’s opinion, so if kids (most all of them) naturally sit this way, I’d like to have the resources that prove all the said side effects of sitting this way actually have been proven. Thanks!

    Reply
  8. Fle

    I was born with dislocated hips & wore braces for a short time. I would sit like this because it was painful and uncomfortable to sit Indian style. I never had a problem with my balance as I can probably credit my dance classes I was put into from kindergarten through high school, but mom noticed me a little pigeon-toed. I worked hard to correct that! Thank you so much for that info on “W sitting”!

    Reply
  9. Cindy Boran

    I have a picture of me sitting in a w on the floor. I was about 6 . At 11 I was diagnosed with congenital hip dysplasia. I had my 1st of many many hip surgeries at that time. Now at 63 I need a walker due to weak legs and back. Too bad my parents did not know about the dangers of the W.
    Cindy Boran

    Reply
  10. Debbie Blake

    When My son was very young he sat this way. We called it the frog sit. When he was 2ish, His grandmother had me take him to the doctor to have his hips checked. At the time I didn’t understand why and she never did tell me. Everything was okay. He is fine and no physical health issue arose. He played all kinds of sports in school. I am sorry for all those who suffers.

    Reply
  11. Kara

    Im 18 years old and have been sitting like that since i was little. Sitting criss-cross was always uncomfortable or painful. I do have knee problems and shin splints from it.

    Reply

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