Belonging and Sharing

The only way to have a friend is to be one.

- Emerson

As children successfully relate with others, they develop a sense of belonging. Their comfort level shifts with age and stage. The comfort and joy of friendship is invaluable to happiness and well-being, as children learn the joy of giving and receiving, of loving and of being loved. Our level of self-esteem determines our ability to love and accept ourselves. This in turn, determines our ability to love and accept others.

The antidote for fifty enemies is one friend.

- Aristotle

A friend cares about you, and understands.

- Daniel, age 6

Helping and Mistakes

I have not failed ten-thousand times. I have successfully found ten-thousand ways that will not work.

- Thomas Edison

A true friendship is safe. We are not judged or rejected for not being perfect. We are not rejected if we have made a mistake. It is safe to learn from our mistakes and to try again.

A friend is someone you can depend on and look up to. They will help you even when you make mistakes or look like a fool.

- Michael, age 9

For some children it is easy to receive help or to ask for help. Others won’t ask for help until they are backed into a corner…desperate. Even then, some cannot, as the embarrassment and humiliation are too much for them. How a child is treated when they are obviously in need, or they ask for help, has a dramatic effect on their self-esteem. When we ask a true friend for help, a friend says “No, I’m sorry I can’t,” or “Yes I will help you, let me figure out how I can do this. Let me make arrangements.” The details can be thought out or worked out later.

A simple “Yes, what do you need, what can I do?” is ideal. The questions can come later. This saves the dignity and self-respect of the child. When the person seeking help is barraged with questions, it is humiliating, i.e., “How did you get yourself into this situation? What did you do? Why weren’t you more careful? Didn’t you know better? I can’t believe you did this!”

A friend doesn’t make you feel stupid when you ask for help. Friends don’t make you feel guilty. A friend has a kind heart.

- Gita, age 9

A friend doesn’t embarrass you. A friend shares with you.

- Blair, age 9

A friend understands how you feel. A friend doesn’t ignore you.

- Rachel, age 7

Children do not like being put off or stalled. No one does. Kids have a built-in sense of what is fair. They know what a friend means to them. The values and qualities that children want in a friend, they also want in adults. Children understand kindness. Sometimes, even one instance of harsh, humiliating treatment can cause a crack, a break in a relationship, if the child honestly feels it was not fair.

Of course, children are the most genuinely forgiving of all, and an immediate apology works wonders. They learn the skill of apologizing when they experience this phenomena from adults. The skill and consistent habit of sincerely apologizing is essential to create and sustain friendships. Bullies make a joke out of an apology by adding a sneer, laughter or a sarcastic remark.

An apology is a bridge over misunderstandings or temporary unkindness. It is not something to be delayed. It is essential to creating trust and respect in a friendship.

Kindness, Loyalty and Trust

Until we adults violate their trust, children trust us. When we demonstrate sincere qualities of friendship with them, they think of us as a friend. When we treasure a child, they feel safe. When we respect their ideas, feelings, needs, privacy, possessions, or stage of growth, they will respect ours. When they feel we honor them, they honor us.

A friend is someone who treats you with respect. You can trust them.

- Anthony, age 15

A friend is an opportunity to experience yourself.

- Ronda, age 40

A friend does not gossip about you, or tell your secrets.

- Ruth, age 75

A friend says good things about you to others.

- James, age 14

Being a friend and having a friend is mutual respect and trust.

- Joyce, age 33

A friend knows that your life, your time…is equally as important as
His life, and his time. He does not leave you waiting. He shows up
On time. If he is going to be late, he calls immediately to let you know.

- Dirk, age 54

A friend does not lie to you, they tell the truth.

- Chance, age 8

One of my son’s finest qualities is kindness. He values the feelings and needs of others. However, on Valentine’s Day when he was in the fifth-grade he had the opportunity to learn not to be a fence-sitter with a girl on each side of the fence. He learned that indecision is not kind.

There were two girls that wrote him a note, each wanting to be his valentine. He explained to me that he didn’t want to hurt the feelings of either one so he bought each girl a bag of M&M’s and a valentine card. The night before Valentine’s Day he ate one of the bags of M&M’s.

I can still see his innocent face as he said, “Mom, it’s no problem, really! They can share the one bag. I wrote them a note about it, they will understand”. He was amazed at their anger and then how they became such goods friends when they had not been friends before. They wouldn’t speak to him and went to great lengths for weeks to make him miserable. He learned that kindness and friendship means honest, open choices, not a fence sitting “maybe,” “I haven’t decided yet.”

Friendship depends on kindness, loyalty and trust. A friendship is like the hub of all the spokes of a wheel: accepting the different possibilities, securing them strongly, and balancing them. Within families and groups of people, the stronger that “hub” is, the stronger the connections. I think this “hub” must be discreet, protecting, loyal and nurturing…to each part of the whole.


A friend does nice stuff, they don’t hurt you. They say nice things about you.

- Ashley, age 6

A friend is someone you can trust with your secrets. They think you are special.

- Rosey, age 9

Friends don’t ask you to do something that would hurt you or would get you in trouble.

- Paul, age 11

A friend doesn’t eat all the good stuff in front of you without sharing.

- Mcqueenc, age 11

When my daughter, was seven-years old she and her best friend decided they didn’t like boys, except her brother, who was her hero. We were at a baseball game one day and Tiff and her friend were playing on the monkey bars together. I looked over to see the girls all huffy, stomping back to the bleachers. When I asked what was wrong she emphatically said, “Ew! The place is infested with boys.” It seemed to tighten the friendship between the girls that they agreed upon this idea. When she was sixteen, it seemed there were boys everywhere, and I was thinking, “Ew! The place is infested with boys.”

I’ve participated as a mom, a chauffeur, and an audience for various teams throughout the years; baseball, dance, soccer, swimming, basketball, and volleyball. One team had the most outstanding good sportsmanship, friendship and bonding among the players, that I have ever seen. They obviously liked each other, and supported each other openly, with “Cool!” “Good job!” “Yea, Randal” “That’s OK… good try.” “It’s OK… that was a tough play.” They had so much fun, and were always laughing and enjoying each other. They won most of their games and went on to city tournaments.

Both of their coaches, Michelle Vedova and Randy Bell, have such positive attitudes with and about their players. They were having as much fun as their kids and they were accomplishing their goals.

I use the same rules with my volleyball team that I use in my classroom. It starts with choices, rules and consequences. One of the main rules in the classroom is no put-downs. We talk about why put-downs are not good.

The children do not have the choice of being mean to each other. They grow from that point. They learn about the behavior and attitudes of friendship. If there is someone bothering you, tell me about it and we’ll go outside and work it out.

We don’t work out conflicts in front of others. They each get a chance to tell their story. Then we discuss what the best way to handle the situation is. An example would be ‘Craig how did that make you feel when John did or said that?’

Feelings are a big part of it. I help them to understand their own feelings and someone else’s feelings. Repeated conflicts between children not only disallow learning for the children involved, but disrupts the entire class, so we take care of it.

With the classroom and the team we have to go for the majority, and what is best for the majority. Rules and consequences make kids realize they have to work together and be friends.

With the team, they knew if they put each other down or were mean to each other, they could no longer play. They don’t have the choice of being mean to each other. They begin to spontaneously develop friendship and social skills.

- Michelle Vedova, M.Ed.
5th Grade Teacher, Student Council Advisor, Volleyball Coach

Wishing to be a friend is quick work, but friendship is a slow ripening fruit.

- Aristotle

A friend? Well how about… just… let’s you be who you are!

- Rosey, age 9

On the volleyball court and in the classroom I encourage friendship and treating each other with respect. Negativity is not allowed. Zero in on the kids who are following the rules and trying the hardest. The others will catch on and realize that the way to get attention, the way to get the best results is through positive means. I reinforce the positive whether it is attitude, accomplishment or effort. I make it a point not to reinforce the negative.

Friendship and harmony in the classroom is important to a child’s confidence, learning ability, and their quality of work. Encourage the kids to support and help each other. I give special attention to new kids, giving them a buddy for a day. The class helps the child to become a part of the group.

By emphasizing the positive, we get the positive. I’ve always believed that the more you expect from a child the more you get.

- Randy Bell
4th Grade Teacher, Volleyball Coach

Wendy Schockets obvious delight in children and her warmth patience and understanding with each of them. She has four different language groups in her kindergarten class; English, Polish, Spanish, and Vietnamese. She gives special attention to friendship in her class, as a tool to make the children comfortable, and to prepare them for learning.

I let them know that we have one universal language, the language of friendship. We celebrate our differences and our sameness. We recognize differences and we come to realize how much we are alike.

As a basis for teaching harmony and friendship, we have three rules:

  1. Everyone has a right not to be hurt.
  2. Everyone has a right not to be sad by someone else’s doing.
  3. Everyone has a right to be happy and safe.

I try to give them the understanding that they need to treat others the way they want to be treated. Happy children who feel safe and cared for, learn more easily and more quickly.

I teach them to pat each other on the back and notice what each other does well. If I have a very shy child, I make them feel important by giving them a job that is something they like. I watch for what they like and do well and give them the opportunity to choose. At-risk children, especially, need to feel that they have choices. Children thrive on positive feedback and friendship with one another.

- Wendy Schockets
Kindergarten Teacher, Language Development Specialist

How can you not help a friend, it’s not choice. A friend is about being…not choosing.

- Ronda, age 40

“I like friends. A friend is someone you get along with and feel safe to just be yourself. You are there for them for whatever they need. Sometimes it’s a ride to the doctor, or putting up storm windows, or fixing a fence. If you can be helpful, then you just do it. Friendship takes time. It’s complex and it’s really simple.

It’s a good thing if your friend is not a pain in the —- too often. You see eye to eye most of the time. If their opinion is different than yours, you don’t hold it against them. They are no different than family. Once they are a friend, then that’s it. It is nice if they are good cooks. It helps if they have a fairly normal code of conduct.

Some people feel like friends the minute you meet them, and others you know forever and they are not friends. Friends fall in your lap when you’re not paying attention, just effortless, unaware as heck. When it’s a friend, and a loved one, you work with them when they are being a jerk. You hang in there.

- Tom Oakland, age 60
Vietnam Veteran, Retired PBS Transmitter Technician

Excerpt from Bully Prevention Character Development Program © – Dianna L. Pappas-Marchese