Solutions for Children in Poverty?

From the National Center for Children in Poverty at Columbia University:

  • Over 15 million American children live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level, which is $22,050 a year for a family of four.
  • The number of children living in poverty increased by 33 percent between 2000 and 2009.
  • There are 3.8 million more children living in poverty today than in 2000.
  • Research consistently shows that, on average, families need an income of about twice the federal poverty level to make ends meet.
  • Children living in families with incomes below this level – for 2010, $44,100 for a family of four – are referred to as low income.
  • Forty-two percent of the nation’s children – more than 31 million in 2009 – live in low-income families.
  • Twenty-one percent of children live in families that are considered officially poor (15.3 million children).
  • Nine percent of children live in extreme poor families (6.8 million)
  • Twenty-four percent of children younger than age 6 live in poor families; 19 percent of children age 6 or older live in poor families.
  • Twenty-one percent of households with children experience food insecurity.
  • In the 10 most populated states, the percentage of poor children who lack health insurance ranges from 12 percent in New York to 38 percent in Texas.

These are some sobering statistics.  What is the solution?  Well, I can tell you what it is not the answer:

Parenting Lesson No. 342

The kids and I went grocery shopping at Kroger last night, because there’s nothing I like better than shopping with 4 tired kids.  When we got home, the 5 year old said something odd and had his hand in his shorts pocket…long story short (he’s a terrible liar) he had a packet of Skittles candies that we did not pay for. He immediately narked on the 7 year old who was up in his room.

I asked the 7 year old what he had taken and he lied repeatedly until I got an empty packet of M&Ms from him.   In desperation he told me that his 2 year old sister had told him to take it or she would kill him, but up until that point he was VERY convincing and I would never have known had it not been for his brother.

I sent them to take a shower. Afterward, the older one went up to his room to get some clothes and he came back looking rather suspicious – and sure enough he smelled like chocolate.  Knowing that I would take them away earlier, he had dumped out the candies and brought me only the empty packet claiming that he had already eaten them.

While he was brushing his teeth in my bathroom, I went up to look around his room. I found (well hidden) the corner of the M&Ms wrapper and a small empty baggie of fancy jellybeans which he had not brought me when I asked earlier.

So I had the following to deal with:  a) the fact that both boys ripped off the store and b) the older one lied through his teeth repeatedly and about several different facts.

I told them that we are going back to the store right after school the next day (today) to speak with the manager, to apologize, and to pay for the stuff with their own money which is already out on the counter.  I also told them to hope that the manager does not call the police.   They both told me that they did NOT want to go back to the store and please don’t make them.  Too late for that, little boys.  They went to bed dreading the trip, which was absolutely fine by me.

While they were at school I called the store and spoke to a manager.  She said it was absolutely no problem and that they have to give “The Speech” fairly regularly (phew – I guess this is more normal than it feels!).

When they got home from school. I marched them to the kitchen table and had them each write a note of apology to the store.

The manager (different one than I had spoke with) at the store was very understanding and spoke to them very sternly, but also thanked them for coming back in to pay for their ill-gotten goods because that was the right thing to do.  I could tell he had done this before.  They cried….first the sniffles and then the red eyes and then the out and out bawling.   I may have cried a little – it was hard to watch.

The 5 year old's apology

The 7 year old's apology

We then paid for the candies and left.  On the way home I told them that if this ever happened again, we would return the merchandise to the store, apologize to the manager, pay for the items, and then drive straight to the police station where they could tell their story to the police.

I feel like I have dealt sufficiently with the stealing and am still formulating a proper punishment for the 7 year old’s lying, which is a major offense in this household.

Child development sites (and my friends with lots of kiddos) tell me this is a pretty normal event for this age and nothing that guarantees a life of crime ahead, but after seeing their reactions, I have a feeling I don’t have to worry about it happening again.

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