Yes, sometimes you still have to say, “No, we don’t throw these balls off the table,” but showing children acceptable ways to play often takes care of the problem.
A child runs into the front room and jumps on the couch, pretending it is a trampoline. You can gather up the child, take him to the entrance way and say, “Let’s play a game. This is how you play the ‘front room game’ at Grandma’s house. Follow me and do as I do.” You walk nicely into the front room, praising the child as he follows. Sit nicely on the chair and then say, “When you play the front room game right, there are treats in the fridge.”
Children might be squirting each other in the hot tub. One child cries. You might add a floating cup or other item and say, “This is how we squirt things in the hot tub. We find an object. How many of you can hit this cup?” Again you might comment on the fact that it is bad manners to squirt someone who doesn’t like it. You decide, but redirecting the energy really works lots of times.
I saw a child systematically dipping a ladle into a sand pile she was sitting in and then dumping the sand outside the sand pile. A parent moved over to the sand pile and said, “Look what I can do,” and she commenced dumping sand into a water wheel that was there. The child was fascinated, watched and then did the same. True, she did add, “We don’t dump the sand outside the sand pile.”
A child might be throwing clay. A parent or sibling could say, “Let’s see if we can make a basket with a handle out of this clay”. A child is pounding on the piano. A parent might say, “Oh, listen to how the piano sounds when we use just fingers.”
A teenager complained about a paper he had to write. A parent said, “What is your subject?” Then he moved to the computer with the teen. “Now tell me more about what you know about that?” As the youth talked, the parent typed just exactly what he said. Then he asked about the research. Together they checked it out. The parent asked more questions. The parent typed only what the youth said. Then he said, “Look at all the material you have. I’ll bet you can easily put it together for your paper.” It didn’t take long for the project to be done. The parent then praised the youth for his good thinking on the subject.
Sometimes children and teens just need alternate ideas.