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.’

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?

Red Robbie ( a story for 9-11 year olds on non violence)

Red Robbie

Many years ago, in the time when your great grandmother was young, there lived in Scotland a young man called Fergus MacTavish and his brother, Robert.  They lived in Glasgow in an area called the Gorbals. It was infamous for its poverty and violence. Fergus had a large family – three brothers and two sisters. His father worked in the shipyards and his mother worked as a cleaner for some ladies in Bearsden.

Life was hard for the family. There was little money in spite of their parents’ hard work. They never had new clothes. Sometimes the ladies who Mrs. MacTavish worked for would give her clothes they no longer wanted. They were always far too big for her children and they had to be cut down to size.  Some of the women were very good at making new clothes out of old ones, but Fergus’s mother had never really mastered the art of sewing. She was quite handy with the scissors though. She would snip away at a pair of trousers until they were the right length for her ‘biggest lad’ as she called Fergus. When he grew out of them, they would fit the second boy, and so on, down the line of four boys.  The youngest boy, Robbie, was always a sight – a real scruffy lad.  It wasn’t his fault that he was so untidy.

Robbie had a crop of red curly hair and a real temper to go with it. People called him Red Robbie and woe betide anyone who teased him about his appearance or anything else.  Hid dad used to say to him, “You have to stand up for yourself, laddie, because nobody else will.”

Being so small and scruffy, Red Robbie did find himself the target of other lads jokes and remarks, especially at the beginning of the school year when many of the boys had new schools uniforms or at least, clothes that fitted them properly, but not Robbie. He held his oversized trousers up with a belt pulled in to his narrow little waist making lots of pleats where they should have fitted and been smooth. The trousers always looked as if they had half a dozen extra pockets in them.

Many an unsuspecting bigger boy would taunt him “What d’ye have in yer pocket, laddie?” and reaching into one of the pockets in the material to pinch Robbie, he would have a shock. It would be the last time the boy ever tried that trick on Robbie. Robbie would not take any nonsense. He had hard little fists and he was not afraid to use them.

As he grew older he had hard big fists and he began to enjoy using them. He had an expression, “Fists first, ask questions later.” People were afraid of Robbie. They kept their distance from him.

He noticed how his brothers always had friends, and girlfriends too. They got Saturday jobs and earned pocket money and went out to the pictures with their pals. They always seemed to be joking and laughing – whereas Robbie was always cross, always looking for trouble and ready for a fight.

Robbie’s elder brother, Fergus, had a girlfriend called Kathy. She was a lovely girl. She too had lots of red curls. Sometimes when she was waiting for Fergus to come home from his Saturday job, she would chat to Robbie. She was the only girl Robbie ever spoke to. Somehow his rough manner put the girls off and boys too, for that matter. Kathy could see that Robbie was unhappy.  One day she asked him why he was always scowling and angry.

Robbie blushed. He jumped to his feet and held out his fists as if he was going to hit Kathy. “Fists first, ask questions later,” he said.

Kathy knew he would never hit her. They were friends. Suddenly she understood. She knew how poor the family had been when the kids were small. She looked at Robbie and noticed how scruffy he was, and yet his family had enough money these days. Robbie had got into the habit of defending himself so fiercely that he had learnt to attack even before he had good reason to – just in case. In the same way he had got into the habit of always wearing old clothes and looking scruffy.

Robbie’s chats with Kathy helped him to understand that violence was no way to make friends. He needed to learn to give people a chance and not to think they were all out to get at him. He also learned to start to take pride in his appearance. Being neat and clean helped him to look more approachable to other people. He learnt to make friends and he became a much happier person.


1.       How did you feel when you heard this story?

2.       Did it remind you of anything in your own life?

3.       How many people had worn the trousers before Robbie got them?

4.       Why did Robbie get teased?

5.       What did Robbie’s father advise him to do?

6.       How did Robbie stand up for himself?

7.       Could Robbie have done it in a better way?

8.       What did Kathy teach him?

This story was written for the Education in Human Values scheme (bisse.org.uk)

A story for a very angry young girl (for 8-11yrs, dealing with anger)

A story for E’s client

A woman wearing tartan skirt and shawl came to tell me about her life as a young child.

A story for a very angry young girl

Hello, my name is Mrs McIver, Mary McIver. You can call me Mary. I’ve come to tell you about myself. When I was a young lassie I had red hair and freckles. My family looked different from me. My mum and dad had straight brown hair. My brothers had blond hair, but I had reddish curls and lots of freckles. Sometimes they teased me and I used to get cross. I used to shout at them when they said I needed a good wash in the burn (stream) to get rid of them. I knew I was clean. They knew I was clean. Why did they tease me? Families can be like that sometimes. They like to give you a label. My sister was known as ‘the quiet one’. One of my brothers was ‘the rowdy one’, the other was ‘the clever one’. I was ‘the angry one’. They used to say it was because I had red hair, and that would mean I would be a cross kind of person. I had a friend in school that had red hair too, and freckles. At least she wouldn’t tease me. I didn’t used to get cross with her. She was lovely. We used to play such great games. We had trees in our playground. We pretended we had horses and we would gallop in and out of the trees and tie our horses up to the tree we called our stable. She was called Dianne.

One Day I heard that Dianne had left my school. She just disappeared. I was so upset. Who could I play with now? The other kids all seemed to have their own friends. They didn’t want me. My brother ‘the rowdy one’ didn’t help. He and his pals came over to me sitting alone on the step in the playground. He didn’t know about my friend leaving.

“What’s the matter with you, misery guts?” he asked.

I couldn’t tell him I was so upset, but instead of being upset I put on my fiercest face and I said ‘Get lost, I hate you!’

My brother turned round to his friend and said, “It’s no wonder she hasn’t got any friends. I told you she was always angry.”

It was just not true. But I had discovered that being angry instead of being upset made me feel a bit less upset. So I used to get angry every time I was upset. Instead of crying and explaining why I was upset I would just get very, very angry. People would turn away instead of helping me to sort out what was upsetting me. They didn’t like it when I was angry.

The very angry girl

It was little things that made me angry – like when my brothers or my sister seemed to get more of something than I did. Or if they had a chance to go somewhere or do something and I didn’t. I didn’t tell anyone how I was feeling. I just screamed. I used to get into such a state. I’d hammer on the walls and stamp my feet. I’d get sent up to my room. I’d feel like I was burning up inside. If anyone came to see how I was I’d throw something at them. I only felt better after I’d had a sleep. Then I’d want to forget about it and I’d be OK until the next time. I thought it was all right to do what I did. Nobody seemed to think I could change.

But one day my Grandma’s sister came to stay. I had only met her once before. My family always said she was a ‘good listener’. I was in one of my terrible moods, shut in my room. I heard her voice outside my door. I didn’t think I should chuck anything at her. She wasn’t really in my close family so I thought I mustn’t be horrible to her. When she came in she just sat on my bed and reached out her hand for mine. I let her take my hand and I felt all the anger and tightness in my chest just turn into tears and sobs. I thought she, if anyone, would listen to me. I told her about my red hair and my friend leaving, and being lonely. She listened to it all.

“Ah,” she said,” Don’t you think your Ma and Pa would like to hear about this? Would you like me to tell them in case it makes you angry again?”

I let her tell my Mum and Dad. When they came into my room there was a different look on their faces. First I hugged my Mum and then I hugged my Dad.

“Shall we all start again?” asked my Mum. “No more name calling. If I’m upset I’ll tell you why, and if you’re upset, you’ll tell me why. Is it a deal?”

“Yes, Mum,” I said.

It made such a difference to me. I can’t say I never got angry again, but I wasn’t afraid to tell people how I was feeling anymore. I never needed to scream and shout and shut myself in my room again. I found some new friends and I did have a happy life.


1. What did Mary’s family expect Mary to be like?

2. What name was she given in the family?  

3. Did other members of the family also have ‘names’? Do you remember any of them, for example one was ‘The noisy one’.

4. How might it affect a person if they are given a label, or a teasing ‘nick name’, eg. ‘the angry one’

5. How did they tease Mary?  Was that fair?

6. How did Mary act when they teased her unfairly?

7. Who noticed that Mary’s problem could be solved, and what did that person do to help?

8. How did Mary act after she and her family had a new agreement, and what was the agreement?

9. Does the story remind you of anything in your life?