A story to introduce the idea of character development: Should Marcy be the Boss? – for children 9-10 years

Should Marcy be the Boss?

Marcy lived in San Diego, USA. Her parents had a beautiful large house with a swimming pool. and Marcy was their only child. Marcy’s mother Bettina loved to play golf, to visit the beautician and her hairdresser, to work with her personal trainer and to do a little charity work one day a week. She was a busy lady. She did not have time to clean or cook so she employed Olivia, a woman from Mexico, just over the border from San Diego.

Bettina allowed her home help Olivia to go home across the border at weekends. She spent her days cleaning and cooking and looking after Marcy when she wasn’t at school. Marcy loved Olivia. She always had time to chat about any problem Marcy had and Marcy was the kind of girl who was always having problems. She was ten years old and she and her friends were always falling out.

If Marcy told her mother about it, Bettina would say
‘Gee honey, I don’t know why you bother with Mary Lou (or Jamie Lee, or whoever Marcy had fallen out with). But that answer did not satisfy her; she wanted to know why things had gone wrong between her and her friends, and Olivia would always ask Marcy the right questions about what had happened to help her to understand these ups and downs.

Olivia had three children of her own whom she saw only at weekends. Marcy loved to hear about them as she had no brothers or sisters to play with or to think about. Olivia’s family were almost like a family to Marcy except that she had never met them.

One day during the summer holidays Olivia asked Marcy’s Mum, Bettina, if she could bring her youngest daughter Karen to stay for a week. Olivia’s mother, Karen’s grandmother, had to go to hospital and could not look after the children for a few days.

Bettina agreed, ‘Sure that will be okay. Marcy has fallen out with all her friends at the moment, so Karen will keep her company.’

‘She will be no trouble,’ said Olivia, ‘she can help me with the work. Marcy might not want to play with her.’

‘Oh yes I do, I do want to play with her!’ shouted Marcy who had been listening from behind the half closed kitchen door.
Olivia looked at Marcy then at Bettina, her half smile said a lot. Bettina easily read her expression.
‘Marcy, if Karen comes she will be staying here and you won’t be able to treat her like you treat your so-called friends. You will have to be kind and considerate and not flounce off in a huff and say ‘I’ll never speak to you again.’
Marcy blushed. ‘I don’t say that! Well, if I do I don’t mean it!’

‘That maybe so, but do your friends know that? No one has called round it at all this holiday. Have you put them all off?’

Marcy stomped out of the kitchen. Bettina and Olivia looked at each other. Both women thought the other should be making a better job of showing Marcy how to behave, but of course neither said so.
‘Karen can come tomorrow, that will be fine,’ said Bettina in an uncertain voice, which told of her doubts.

When Karen arrived Marcy was all over her. She talked non-stop and took her all around the house and showed her where she could and could not go. She decided that she would be the boss and Karen would be a servant, a servant who would play with her when Marcy wanted to play, otherwise she could help her mother.

The adults did not hear about this arrangement. They had thought that the girls could make friends with each other and have some fun, perhaps swim in the pool, play handball and watch a few videos together.

On the second day Karen refused to go to play with Marcy.
‘I want to help you today, Mum,’ she said.

‘Why what’s the problem?’ asked Olivia.
As usual Marcy was listening from behind the door.
‘Marcy is treating me like a servant. She keeps telling me to fetch things for her. She tells me what to do all the time. Even in the pool, she tells me where I can swim and how many lengths I have to do. She’s so bossy!’

Marcy felt herself blushing. That was exactly what her friends kept telling her. She did not know how to behave in a nice way towards people. She had to think quickly.
She skipped in the door. ‘ Hi Karen.’ She said. ‘I was playing at being the boss yesterday. I forgot to tell you. Sorry. Today you can be the boss. It’s your turn. Just tell me what to do and I will do it.’

Karen looked surprised. ‘Oh is that what you were doing? Well it wasn’t much fun for me. I think I’m not going to choose to be the boss. We’ll have a different game. I will be a teacher and I will show you how to take turns, how to share and to be polite and considerate, and you can pretend that you don’t know how to be those things, and I will teach you. We could make a play about it and show Mum and Bettina tonight.’

Questions
This is a story about character. What does the word mean to you?
Who in the story shows that they have a good character?
What is it that they do that shows you this?
How could Bettina be a better mother?
Why does Marcy keep losing her friends?
Why does Karen not want to play with Marcy?
What advice would you give to Marcy to help her to keep her friends?
How could you help someone who needs to learn better behaviour?