TO CREATE A peaceful world, we must encourage peaceful actions in our children and teach them how to resolve their conflicts without violence.
Such was the message of a conference at Carroll Community College on Thursday night and of a sculpture known as the "Peace Piece," which was created at Art in the Park on Saturday.
Both events were organized by Barbara Weber, who, as director of Main Street Early Learning Center in Westminster, sees firsthand how children younger than age 5 interact with one another and resolve their disputes.
Daily, she and the other teachers show the children how to treat others with respect, and they discipline with "time-out chairs" and other nonphysical punishments.
But Weber also knew that the message needed to spread beyond her young charges.
"Working with children for the past 10 years, I've seen an increase in violent behavior among the children," said Weber.
"I associate it with violent television shows, violent toys and parents not getting involved with what their children are watching - parents being overworked and not having enough time to monitor what their children's television diet is," she said.
On Saturday, she and her husband, Thomas Sterner, left a visible reminder to Westminster residents in the form of a sculpture representing a child.
Symbolically showing that children are products of their environment, the couple attached about 100 violent toys collected from across the county to the wire framework.
Arts council representatives said they hoped the outdoor sculpture would encourage people to think about protecting children from violence and teaching them peaceful ways to resolve conflict.
While the Taneytown and Westminster police departments actively supported the idea, they were unable to collect toys for the project.
In addition, some of the 10 day care centers that agreed to collect toys encountered parental opposition to the idea, Weber said.
"The parents at one center said that they wanted their children playing with guns because if our country went to war, they wanted them to be familiar with guns to be able to defend themselves," she said.
"One mother asked to have a display taken down because it offended her," Weber said.
Weber remains optimistic about spreading her message of peace.
About 35 people attended Thursday evening's conference.
Speakers included Colman McCarthy, Washington Post columnist and founder of the Center for Teaching Peace in Washington; Molly Jackman of the Lion and Lamb Project in Bethesda; and Charles Collyer, one of the founding members of the University of Rhode Island's Center for Nonviolence.
"We were hoping to introduce parents to different ideas about what impact violent television and violent toys are having on their children," Weber said, noting that most of the participants were early-childhood educators.
The evening was a success, she said.
"It wasn't the numbers we were hoping for, but the people who showed up stayed all the way to the end, even after I had formally concluded it," Weber said, noting that many of the attendants want to continue meeting and to consider including peace-oriented studies in the school system.
"We all learned about the generals, but we never learned about the pacifists, like Martin Luther King and Gandhi," she said.
Have a date with Daddy
Show your father how special he is tomorrow at the annual Daddy/Daughter Date, sponsored by Westminster from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at Martin's Westminster.
Girls in kindergarten through eighth grade are invited to bring their favorite guy to this event designed to provide one-on-one time for fathers and daughters.
Because it is a couples-only evening, grandfathers, uncles and other male relatives are encouraged to serve as escorts in families with more than one daughter.
Cost is $40 per couple.
Amy L. Miller's Central neighborhood column appears each Monday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.