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0883 Taking Care of a Willful Child

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 883: Taking Care of a Willful Child.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 883. I'm your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California. That's right, Los Angeles, California.

Go to our website at ESLPod.com. You can become a member of ESL Podcast. Get our Learning Guide. Get all the wonderful things that come with the ESL Podcast membership.

This episode is a dialogue between Mrs. Mason and Carl about taking care of a difficult child. Let’s get started.

[start of dialog]

Mrs. Mason: So, how did things go?

Carl: Well...

Mrs. Mason: What’s the matter? Didn’t you and Jason have a good time while I was away?

Carl: It was interesting. He was a little willful.

Mrs. Mason: Yes, he can be a little strong-willed at times, but if you just do what he wants or give him what he wants, he’s just fine.

Carl: He wanted to eat all of the cookies and I told him no. He threw a tantrum.

Mrs. Mason: A tantrum? My son can be stubborn, but he never throws tantrums. What did he do exactly?

Carl: Well, he threw his toys against the wall, jumped the couch while shrieking at the top of his lungs, and he tried to bite my hand.

Mrs. Mason: Oh, he was just expressing his displeasure, that’s all. You don’t want children to bottle up their feelings. You should just have given him the cookies to pacify him.

Carl: Really? I didn’t want to spoil him, and eating all of those cookies wouldn’t be good for him. He seemed to have too much energy already, and he didn’t need another sugar rush.

Mrs. Mason: Next time, you should just do what he wants. He’ll grow out of this willful stage soon.

Carl: Next time?

Mrs. Mason: Yes, didn’t you say you could babysit Jason again on Saturday night?

Carl: Oh, I’d made a mistake. I have another commitment on Saturday night.

Mrs. Mason: That’s too bad. We’ll call you the next time we need a babysitter.

Carl: Sure, I can’t wait.

[end of dialog]

Our dialogue begins with Mrs. Mason asking Carl, “How did things go?” “How did things g?” means “What happened?” You're usually referring to some specific event or situation that is now in the past, and you want to find out whether things went well, whether the situation turned out to be a good one or not.

Carl says, “Well…” Mrs. Mason says “What's the matter?” – what's wrong – “Didn't you and Jason have a good time while I was away?” We learn that Carl is the babysitter. A “babysitter” is someone who looks after your child, who takes care of your child while you go somewhere else. Normally, babysitters are women or high school girls. That's the sort of traditional babysitter, but there are some boys and men, I guess, who babysit.

I babysat once. I babysat my two nieces, Corrie and Molly, and that was many, many years ago. They were very young. One of them was maybe, I don't know, three or four, and the other one was only, well, was still a baby, and it’s pretty much the worst experience of my life, I think. I think I can say that.

Anyway, Carl is a babysitter. He's taking care of Mrs. Mason’s son, Jason. Carl says “It was interesting” – his experience with Jason. “Jason,” he says, “was a little willful.” “To be willful (willful)” means to be stubborn, not to do what you are supposed to do. Carl says that Jason was a little willful. Mrs. Mason says, “Yes. He can be a little strong-willed at times.” “To be strong-willed” means the same as to be willful, means to be stubborn, but it could also mean to have a lot of determination, a lot of persistence . So, it can be a positive thing – strong-willed. “Willful” is almost always a negative thing.

Mrs. Mason says, “If you just do what he wants or give him what he wants, he's just fine.” Mrs. Mason is saying that if you give her son everything he wants, he'll be fine, which of course, is true for all children. If you always give them what they want, they’ll never cry, but then you'll have some really terrible children. So, you have to decide, right?

Carl says, “He wanted to eat all of the cookies and I told him no.” Jason wanted to eat all of the cookies, the sweets. Carl said he couldn't do that and so Jason “threw a tantrum.” “To throw a tantrum (tantrum)” means to behave very badly, very angrily. It's something that you would expect a small child to do. Mrs. Mason says that “A tantrum? My son can be stubborn,” that is, willful, not willing to change his mind, not willing to compromise, “but he never throws tantrums.”

So, Mrs. Mason asked Carl, “What did he do exactly?” Carl says, “Well, he threw his toys against the wall.” He picked up his toys and threw them against the wall. “He jumped on the couch,” the sofa, “while shrieking at the top of his lungs.” “To shriek” (shriek) means to yell very loudly, very loudly. “At the top of your lungs” means very loudly. So, “to shriek at the top your lungs” is a little redundant. It’s saying someone yelled very, very loudly. Some children are of course, capable of yelling very, very loudly. Not me. I was never a child that would yell loudly. As the youngest child, I was always calm, always peaceful. Well, unless you ask my mother. She'll probably tell you a different story. Anyway, back to our story.

Carl says that Jason, in addition to shrieking, “tried to bite his hand.” “To bite” (bite) is to use your teeth to try to eat something, usually to take a piece of food off of a larger piece of food. Mrs. Mason says, “Oh, Jason was just expressing his displeasure. That's all.” “To express your displeasure” means to indicate how you are not happy with the situation, to indicate how unhappy you are. Normally, this expression, “to express one's displeasure,” is used when talking about adults who are showing their disagreement or their dislike of the situation. It's not something we would use to describe a child.

What Mrs. Mason is doing, of course, is defending Jason, saying that he isn’t such a bad child. Mrs. Mason says, “You don't want children to bottle up their feelings.” “To bottle (bottle) up your feelings” means to hide your emotions, not to express what you’re really feeling.

For example, if you’re feeling sad but you don't tell anyone that, and you instead act happy, in some ways you are bottling up your feelings. Or if you are angry with someone and you don't express that, you don't show that, you hide those emotions, you could be described as “bottling up your feelings.”

Now, bottling up your feelings is usually considered a bad thing. However, as we know, to be an adult you have to hide your emotions often, and you probably should in many cases. Some parents believe, however, that their children should be able to express whatever emotion they’re feeling and that's just okay. My parents did not believe that, I can assure you. “Trust me,” we would say – believe me.

Mrs. Mason, however, believes it's not a good idea for her son to bottle up his feelings. She says to Carl, “You should have just given him the cookies to pacify him.” “To pacify” (pacify) means to calm down, to make someone feel more relaxed, especially somebody who's angry or upset. That's the meaning here anyway. “To pacify” is a verb that we would probably use once again, more often than not, for a child or children.

Carl says “Really? I didn't want to spoil him.” “To spoil (spoil) someone” is to give a child everything he or she wants, so that the child never learns any discipline, never learns that he or she has to accept a “no” sometimes in life. There are, of course, many parents who spoil their children, who give their children everything they want and then they grow up and they become my neighbor, and well, it's not a happy situation. But I moved recently so I'm actually talking about my oldneighbor, not my new neighbors. My new neighbors are great…except for the dog that is always making noise. Otherwise, they're wonderful! (Well, and their cars sometimes is in my way, but really, they're pretty good.)

Carl thinks that Jason seem to have too much energy and he didn't want to give him another cookie, so that he would have a “sugar rush.” A “sugar rush” is a temporary feeling of having a lot of energy that you get when you eat or drink something with a lot of sugar in it.

Mrs. Mason says, “Next time, you should just do what he wants. He will grow out of this willful stage soon.” “To grow out of something” means to become older, to become more mature, to no longer do the sorts of bad things that you might have done when you were younger. Mrs. Mason thanks Jason will grow out of this willful stage, this willful period in his development as a child.

Carl says, “Next time?” Mrs. Mason says, “Yes. Didn't you say you could babysit Jason again on Saturday night?” “To babysit,” we've already defined, is to take care of a young child, especially for his or her parent who isn't there. Carl says, “Oh, I've made a mistake. I have another commitment on Saturday night.”

“To have another commitment” means you have another appointment, another date, another situation where you have to go somewhere, and in this case it means Carl won't be able to babysit Jason again. Mrs. Mason says, “That's too bad. We’ll call you next time we need a babysitter.” Carl says, “Sure. I can't wait.” Of course, Carl doesn't really want to babysit Jason ever again, but he's being polite when he says “he can't wait.” Normally that's an expression you say when you're looking forward to something, but Carl is definitely not looking forward to babysitting Jason again.

Now let’s listen to the dialogue, this time at a normal speed.

[start of dialog]

Mrs. Mason: So, how did things go?

Carl: Well...

Mrs. Mason: What’s the matter? Didn’t you and Jason have a good time while I was away?

Carl: It was interesting. He was a little willful.

Mrs. Mason: Yes, he can be a little strong-willed at times, but if you just do what he wants or give him what he wants, he’s just fine.

Carl: He wanted to eat all of the cookies and I told him no. He threw a tantrum.

Mrs. Mason: A tantrum? My son can be stubborn, but he never throws tantrums. What did he do exactly?

Carl: Well, he threw his toys against the wall, jumped the couch while shrieking at the top of his lungs, and he tried to bite my hand.

Mrs. Mason: Oh, he was just expressing his displeasure, that’s all. You don’t want children to bottle up their feelings. You should just have given him the cookies to pacify him.

Carl: Really? I didn’t want to spoil him, and eating all of those cookies wouldn’t be good for him. He seemed to have too much energy already, and he didn’t need another sugar rush.

Mrs. Mason: Next time, you should just do what he wants. He’ll grow out of this willful stage soon.

Carl: Next time?

Mrs. Mason: Yes, didn’t you say you could babysit Jason again on Saturday night?

Carl: Oh, I’d made a mistake. I have another commitment on Saturday night.

Mrs. Mason: That’s too bad. We’ll call you the next time we need a babysitter.

Carl: Sure, I can’t wait.

[end of dialog]

It's never necessary to express my displeasure at our scripts because they're always so wonderful, thanks to Dr. Lucy Tse.

From Los Angeles, California, I'm Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to is again right here on ESL Podcast

English as a Second Language Podcast is written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan. Copyright 2013 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
willful – stubborn, doing what one wants even if one is not supposed to or if other people have asked one to stop

* Dynee was a very willful child, but her parents rarely gave her what she was demanding.

strong-willed – stubborn, with a lot of determination and persistence, doing what one wants even if one is not supposed to or if other people have asked one to stop

* Everybody told Ingrid that quantum physics would be too difficult for her to understand, but she is very strong-willed and she managed to earn her degree.

to throw a tantrum – for someone to behave very badly and angrily, losing control of one’s actions and words, shouting and possibly kicking or hitting, especially when talking about a child

* Two-year-olds often throw tantrums when they don’t get what they want, but if their parents ignore the behavior, it usually changes quickly.

stubborn – refusing to change one’s mind or opinion, no matter what other people say or do

* Last week, Jenna said that she wouldn’t wash any more dishes, and she is so stubborn that now their kitchen is covered in dirty dishes and they don’t have any clean plates!

to shriek – to yell very loudly in a high-pitched voice

* The neighbors heard horrible shrieking and called the police.

at the top of (one’s) lungs – very loudly; as loud as possible when shouting

* Richard is losing his hearing, and even if you shout at the top of your lungs, he probably won’t be able to understand you.

to bite – to use one’s teeth to cut something, especially food

* Don’t put your hand in the monkey’s cage. The monkey might bite your finger!

to express (one’s) displeasure – to say or show that one is unhappy or dissatisfied in some way

* Mariah expressed her displeasure with the board’s decision and then submitted her letter of resignation.

to bottle up (one’s) feelings – to hide one’s emotions from other people, pretending to be calm when one is very upset inside

* Frank hates conflict, so he often bottles up his feelings for weeks or even months, but then one day he explodes in anger.

to pacify – to calm someone down; to make someone feel more relaxed or tranquil after he or she has been very angry, upset, or agitated

* Do you think the inspectors will be pacified if we take them out to an expensive lunch?

to spoil (someone) – to give a child everything he or she wants, so that they don’t learn how to respond to the word “no” and they begin to behave very badly

* Grandparents love to spoil their grandchildren, buying them toys and giving them special foods when they know the parents wouldn’t approve.

sugar rush – a temporary feeling of having a lot of energy and possibly being out of control after having eaten a lot of sweet foods

* The kids at the birthday party drank soda and ate cake and ice cream, and a few minutes later, they were all running around with a terrible sugar rush.

to grow out of – to become older and become more mature so that one no longer does something or is no longer interested in something

* Do you think Adriana will ever grow out of her love of horses?

stage – a period of development characterized by certain traits or behaviors

* Almost all teenagers go through a stage where they rebel against authority.

to babysit – to take care of another person’s child as a way to make extra money, but not as a regular or full-time job

* As a teenager, Lynn earned money by babysitting the neighbors’ kids.

to have another commitment – to be obligated to do something else; to have an appointment with someone else

* I can’t meet on Thursday afternoon, because I have another commitment. Can we meet on Friday morning instead?

Comprehension Questions
1. Which of these things could have injured Carl?
a) Jason threw a tantrum.
b) Jason shrieked at the top of his lungs.
c) Jason tried to bite his hand.

2. Why does Mrs. Mason think Carl should have given Jason the cookies?
a) Because Jason was very hungry.
b) Because the cookies would have calmed Jason down.
c) Because Jason asked very nicely.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
to bite

The verb “to bite,” in this podcast, means to use one’s teeth to cut something, especially food: “Yoko broke her tooth when she accidentally bit a small rock in her food.” The verb “to bite (something) off” means to cut something so that it separates from the other part: “Sheila didn’t have scissors, so she used her teeth to bit off the tag on her new sweater.” The phrase “to bite off more than (one) can chew” means to try to do more than one can and to become overwhelmed: “Walter thought the project would be easy, but he has clearly bit off more than he can chew.” Finally, the phrase “to bite the dust” means to fail: “The last campaign bit the dust, but we’re hoping to do better this time.”

stage

In this podcast, the word “stage” means a period of development characterized by certain traits or behaviors: “It was really difficult to watch Uncle Kenny go through the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease.” When talking about the theater, the “stage” is the raised area where actors or musicians perform for an audience: “Vicky has a beautiful singing voice, but she is scared of performing on stage.” The phrase “to set the stage for (something)” means to make preparations or get something ready: “This acquisition sets the stage for us to become the market leader.” Finally, the phrase “to take center stage” means for something to become very important, so that everyone pays attention to it: “After the school shooting, the debate over gun control took center stage.”

Culture Note
The Baby-Sitters Club Novel Series

Many “pre-teen” (not yet teenagers; 9-12 years old) American girls enjoy reading a series of novels called The Baby-Sitters Club. The books are about a small group of “middle school” (junior high) students who have a small business where they provide babysitting services to the parents of young children in their town. Most of the stories are about the club members’ babysitting experiences, their personal lives, and what happens during their club meetings. In the original books, there are only four members of the club, but the membership “expands” (grows) to 10 in later novels.

Ann Martin wrote the first 35 novels and some later novels in the series. Many, many others have been “ghostwritten” (written without giving credit or acknowledgement to the actual author). There are 132 novels in the regular series, and many other “spin-offs” (related books or other types of entertainment). For example, there are some books that present more information about the club members’ personal lives outside of the club. Other books focus on the club members’ younger “siblings” (brothers and sisters) or the other students whom the club members go to school with. The publisher, Scholastic, sold 170 million copies of the novels between 1986 and 2000, and a “prequel” (a story that shows what happens before the first book in a series) was written for the series in 2010. The novel series was made into a 13-episode TV series in 1990 and a movie in 1995.

The books seem to “strike a chord with” (relate emotionally to) many young girls, not only because it is about babysitting, but also because it covers many topics that are important to them, such as friendships, boys, fashion, and family.

Comprehension Answers
1 - c

2 - b