(For other articles by Dr. Swatantra Jain, please check this webpage)

Parents, now a days, are too much concerned about their children’s studies and performance. Quite often, many parents come to us counselors to talk about their common concerns related to their kid’s studies, like: ‘My baby does not at all want to study’; ‘Our Bablu is always busy in his drawings only; whenever we ask him to study, he becomes sad & dull’; ‘My Manu always keeps on solving some or the other puzzle and gets very disheartened if we try to stop him’; etc.

I know parents and teachers, both are too much bothered about number of similar questions relating to their children’s/students’ learning, e.g. ‘When n how do kids learn; when do they learn most effectively, when do they not learn at all; how best to teach them so that they learn maximum and forget minimum. Well, all these questions and problems are related to learning alone.

In quest of all the above queries related to various aspects of learning, a very eminent learning theorist – Edward Thorndike, after conducting many experiments, appraised the whole world about his ‘Trial & Error theory of Learning’ and its wonderful conclusions in the form of famous Laws of Learning. He viewed that no individual can ever learn any task in the very first attempt. In the process of learning, every individual keeps on trying. It is but natural to commit certain mistakes. But, after constant efforts, these mistakes are minimized and a point comes when they solve the problem or complete the task without any mistake at all. We may/may not agree in totality about this theory, but none can disagree with the following laws of learning given by Thorndike to the whole world:

• The Law of Readiness: Any child learns best when it is ready to learn;
• The law of Exercise: No learning can be permanent unless and until it is repeated again & again;
• The law of Effect: No learning can be effective unless it gives satisfaction and happiness to the learner.

Although all these three law of learning are very important for learning, but, here, I shall delve upon on the first Law of Readiness, because no learning can ever take place unless and until the learner is ready for it. It has three sub-clauses, namely:

• When a child is ready & curious to learn any skill/knowledge, and he is allowed and encouraged to learn it, he gets satisfaction by doing so. It implies that he learns more effectively and with greater joy. This condition is the best for any individual to learn anything.
• When a child is ready/curious to learn any skill/lesson, but not allowed and encouraged to learn, he gets annoyed and discouraged by not being able to learn that skill/lesson.
• When a child is not ready to act/learn any skill/lesson, but made to do/learn that very act/skill/lesson; annoyance, instead of satisfaction, is caused. It implies, if the child is not ready to learn, he cannot learn at all and hence, this is the worst condition for learning to happen.

The essence is that learning will take place only if we teach the learners when they are prepared, otherwise all our teaching will be a disaster.

But the real life scene isn’t hidden from us. We do just the opposite in life situations. We don’t allow our children and students to learn they are interested and curious to learn, rather we force them to do/learn the very thing they aren’t interested at all. Now, it is for us to ponder-over how they can learn effectively if we force them to learn or do, they are not interested at all. If we could appreciate this simple truth that we can never force an individual to learn unless and until he is ready and curious to learn; just as, we can take a horse forcefully, to the pond but twenty can’t make it drink unless and until it is thirsty and ready to drink; we shall never do such injustice to our innocent kids by forcing them to do so.

Readiness implies preparedness, curiosity and focus. It can be physical, mental or emotional:
Physical readiness means that a child has attained the physical maturity/strength to learn/handle the required skill/task. A child won’t be able to learn anything if he is physically not mature/ready to do that. So we shouldn’t expect any physically immature, tired, ailing or weak child to learn anything. Learners must have adequate physical maturity/ability, rest and health to learn/do that task. Generally it’s seen that pushy parents, in their zeal to teach their kids even before they attain the required physical maturity, mar their chances to learn, for it’s quite possible that the kids are not able to learn due to lack of muscular strength or required hand-motor coordination. Hence mind it; there is every chance that they might not do it ever in future if they are forced/threatened to be beaten/punished in any way. Long back, a young mother came to me with her six year old baby daughter. Sobbingly, she said, ‘Madam, My baby can learn very easily whatever I teach her, but she doesn’t want to write at all. Please do something about her.’ After some probing questions, I came to learn that the child’s father had brutally beaten her for writing badly when she was just two years old. She got so frightened and disgusted that she started hating writing from that very moment. So kindly, don’t be in such a haste to teach your kids anything before they have acquired the required physical maturity to learn that task/skill, lest she might not learn despite her will.

Mental readiness implies that the child’s intellect is developed/ready to learn the required task. It refers to the difficulty level of the task as compared to the child’s intellectual capacity or readiness. We have to see if the child’s intellect has developed to grasp the difficulty level of that task or not. Remember that every child can’t be equally intelligent. They are born with different intelligence level; so before forcing your kid to learn, please get her intelligence tested by a psychotherapist/school counsellor. Please don’t try to teach your kid what she can’t learn. Never be unjust to the child by being harsh, for it could be hazardous.

Emotional readiness/willingness refers to one’s liking/disliking. A child would be able to learn easily and with utmost satisfaction if she is really enthusiastic and curious to learn that skill/task. If she is not willing and wants to do some other thing, she won’t be able to learn anything despite your applying all kinds of force. Rather, she would feel annoyed by forcing that task on her. Thus, Emotional readiness is kind of mental willingness/set which means that a child can learn her lesson only when she is inclined to work at them. So, it is our utmost duty to develop readiness and arouse their curiosity to learn the required skill/lesson. If the children have some specific goal, clear objective n purpose and inner urge or external motivation, they would learn not only very fast but also more effectively. It is therefore, essential to take following steps to enhance our children’s readiness and arouse their curiosity.• Never prevent any child to learn/do what she wants to do, because this is the golden opportunity for the child to learn. And her utmost happiness and satisfaction lies in this very act. Now take the next step ahead:

• Be in search of each and every opportunity when your child is ready to learn something on his own. For God’s sake, don’t let that golden opportunity slip from your hands.
• Kindly, don’t snatch these golden moments from the child because these are the moments when she is most excited and hence, would learn according to her choice and interest; as that would be really thrilling for her. Moreover, anything learnt during such moments, is comparatively long lasting.
• Do take care of the third condition of Law of Readiness, i.e. never press the child to learn anything against her wish or liking, because under your pressure, she might open the book and pretend to read it also, but won’t be able to learn. You can surely comment, ‘What to do if the child is never ready to learn?’ Yeah, you are very much right! If the willingness is not there, GENERATE it. If a mother can serve food in such a way that your mouth starts watering; you, too, can make your teaching so interesting and attractive that the child‘s interest and curiosity to learn is automatically aroused.
• Create in them a favorable mental willingness: A teacher/parent, who gives exciting problems to the students and arouses their curiosity, has to adopt attractive means and use apt audio-visual aids for making the lesson appealing; e.g. for teaching a subject in Social-Studies and Biological Sciences, he can take a project of taking the students for outing. The pupils, while preparing for the trip will learn history directly, enjoy aesthetic aspects of the monument and get very precious knowledge regarding its architecture and location very closely as well as joyfully. The resourceful teacher/parent makes an effort to arouse pupils’ interest and curiosity through a current event or news, so that children are motivated to learn more about this. They can utilize an industrial exhibition, a cyclone or birth/death anniversary of national hero for teaching History, Geography, Science and languages.

Please remember that if you teach keeping in mind the child’s readiness/curiosity; second and third law of learning (law of exercise & law of effect) would automatically operate as the act/topic of one’s choice would be learnt fast and easily; they would like to re-do or practice the learnt material out of their own sweet will and thus be more effective and satisfying as well. But what actually we parents and teachers do? We try to implement the second and third law of learning, i.e. Law of exercise and law of effect and ignore the first and very golden law of Readiness.

Do not forget that moments of mental preparedness and alertness are infinite openings for directing the pupil’s attention & efforts into desirable channels of learning. So, if children can’t learn the way we teach, try to teach the way they learn. Getting students ready to learn, creating interest by showing the worth of the subject-matter and offering continuous mental/physical challenge, is usually the parents/teachers responsibility. If students have a strong reason, a reasonable goal, and a clear-cut reason for learning something, they make better progress than if they lack readiness and motivation.