Fighting the good fight

Before I admit to a philosophy that goes against what many modern parents think, let me say that I live in a relatively safe neighborhood and my home is positioned square in the center of a double cul-de-sac. Most people in my neighborhood leave for work by 8 am and don't return until after 5 pm. When a car comes into the double cul-de-sac, I am often startled and slightly surprised.

So don't judge me when I admit that I lock my child outside for a good hour (or two) every week day. Yep. Lock. As in, turn the dead bolt and the knob lock ... and lock the back sliding glass door. As in, the child couldn't get back inside without breaking something ... and you'd better believe he knows better than to try.

I often feel it necessary to explain and defend this action. I hear moms whose children are much older than mine say that they don't allow their kids outside alone, don't want them playing in other people's yards, don't trust that they are safe without constant supervision. And then there's me. When Javi wasn't in camp this summer, I implemented an hour-a-day-outside rule. I'd set the timer and put the child outside. He was allowed to come back in when the timer went off.

I thought the first day would be the toughest. That was the day when he was too bored to survive, so I made him ride his bike. For 20 minutes. Without stopping. He'd come riding back to the house and I'd point back to the road. For 20 minutes. On a different day he had been outside for less than 15 minutes when he started crying and whining about being bored. So I gave him a trash bag and made him walk around the neighborhood picking up trash. You can rest assured he got un-bored very quickly.

All this leads to today. My little brother, Ricky Ricardo (age 10; medicated with Concerta for ADHD), is spending the day with us. Both kids fidgeted and talked over each other on the way to drop Bella off at school. I spent that drive dreaming about the moment I'd put them out.

But even with a buddy, Javi is still banging at the door and begging to come back inside. He's still pressing his face up to the glass and sucking his teeth and yelling to let him in. They went out at 9:30 am. They tried to come in at 9:40 am. I locked the doors. They sat on the stoop outside our door for 20 minutes before deciding to just go play with a friend on the friend's trampoline. They tried to come in again at 10:15, but I pointed to the timer and walked away.

Obviously, this fight is ridiculous. But I'm going to fight it. Not only does outdoor play help burn off extra energy, it also helps calm the mind and body of a child with ADHD and the exposure to sun in the morning (before it's hot and miserable outside) helps boost children's mental health so that they can better control his impulses and make sound decisions.

After Javi's hour is up, he often comes in and plays quietly in his room. He eats his entire lunch without backtalk or negotiation. He is allowed an hour of television in the heat of the afternoon. Then he'll decide to read or draw. He is calm and focused and likely worn slam out. He usually goes out to play with friends in the hour before and after dinner. He then takes a shower, hangs out with the family, and then goes to bed. No arguments, no fighting, no parents wondering how to grow back all the hair they've pulled out.

I'm not giving up on outdoor play. But I would love ideas or suggestions for making it less of a struggle. Any advice?


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