Bullies Can Change
Guest post by author Maria T. Lennon
I’ve been doing many school visits to talk about my new book Confessions of a So-Called Middle Child. The main character, a middle-child by the name of Charlie Cooper, is a tough, often mean, twelve-year-old girl who bullied and pranked her way through elementary school. Until one day her prank went too far and Charlie gets expelled from her elementary school in Malibu.
Charlie is forced to spend the entire summer seeing a therapist to change her ways. By the end of the summer, all she wants is a fresh start at her new school. The question is, will she get one?
During my school visits I go through a fun presentation and when I’m done, I ask the kids whether or not they think Charlie can change. I ask these children the question of whether or not bullies can change? We then either do a little writer’s workshop or we just have a group discussion. And this is what I’ve found:
- Kids are incredibly forgiving.
- 99% of them think bullies can change by people being nice to them.
Of course, I’m always interested in that one kid who puts his or her hand up and tells me they don’t believe bullies can change. They usually say:
- Bullies usually have bad stuff going on at home and can’t change because it’s their home life that is making them mean.
- Once you use bully tactics to get your way it’s hard to ever go back.
Kids are so smart. But I always demonstrate to them that life is full of the unexpected. In my novel, Charlie discovers a secret about this horribly bullied girl and it is this secret, which changes Charlie and makes her see that there is so much more than just being popular. And so Charlie changes. Don’t get me wrong, she doesn’t become super sweet or anything, but she becomes better. She does the right thing and not because she’s told to but because she wants to.
The kids I visit at these schools and afterschool programs always ask me why I wrote this book. And I tell them about my own family and the way I saw kids treating each other through their eyes. I have four kids, two boys and two girls. I spend much of my time at schools and see the way girls, in particular, treat each other. I have a middle child who had a tough time at school. It broke my heart to see her bully kids and be bullied by them. So I wanted to write a book about a girl who is a bully and who gets bullied. I wanted it to be funny so that when they’re reading it, they’re laughing and hopefully learning to be kinder at the same time.
Most importantly, I wanted them to see that we all have the capacity to change every day. Labels are a horrible thing. If you label a kid a bully, sometimes they get so used to being defined that they stay that way. They excel there, so why not? If you label a kid a victim, they can also get stuck there.
Do I think bullies can change? I think they change every day. If they’re allowed to.
About Maria Lennon:
Maria Lennon is the author of Harper Collin’s newest middle grade series Confessions of a So-Called Middle Child. This newest series to hit shelves is about middle child and reformed bully Charlie Cooper trying to make good on her promises. Hilariously spunky and fresh, this brings "Mean Girls" to the tween level, peppered with snarky comments, major attitude, and advice to spare from Charlie Cooper, whose virtues, flaws, fears promise to hit home among young girls, braving middle school in the 21st century and all the pressures that come with it: popularity, bullying, social media, the list goes on.
Maria’s other works include a screenplay about the Red Brigade which was a third place finalist in Francis Ford Coppola's screenwriter's competition and her first novel, Making it Up as I Go Along (Random House, 2004).
Today, she lives in Laurel Canyon and has four children. When not driving one of her four children to school or volunteering at school libraries, she can be found sitting in a parked car, a café or a library writing novels, travel articles or just passed out.
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