I volunteer with children regularly, usually very young preschool or toddler age. One of the common issues I have noticed is that handling disobeying children can become complicated when your the authority figure trusted with the child, but in a volunteer format where exact expectations from parents are unclear.
For example, I once was a teacher aid for sunday school class for preschool age children, and I was the one responsible for handling distractions and problematic children so the teacher could focus on her lesson. These kids were so young, with no experience with this sort of format, and so we had a decent number of issues with kids just not knowing what the rules were they were suppose to follow.
Most of the time simple corrections would be all it took, maybe taking away a toy. However, what happens if a child refuses to give me a toy, or if I tell two fighting kids to sit in opposite corners to separate them and one refuses to do so?
With a kid in my family I would physically take the toy, or carry them to where they need to be. However, I don't know what the parents' opinion will be of my using physical force to control their children. I'm already a male , which sadly means I have to watch my every action due to idiotic prejudice about men working with kids, so I'm afraid of any risk of being seen overstepping my boundaries.
One child I remember fondly was not a bad kid, but was hyperactive (ADHD), had a desperate desire for attention, even if negative, and did not yet understand why his acting out in class was a problem. He was a real nightmare of distraction, running away just so someone would have to chase him because he thought it was fun, doing stuff to force me to give him attention to make him stop etc. He could easily single handled prevent any lesson from being taught if left unchecked.
Ultimately I managed to work out a policy of giving lots of positive attention whenever possible, and making 'discipline' from acting out as boring as possible for him; it worked pretty well actually, and his mother told us she was very pleased with the progress he made with us, to the point she felt ready to put him into school a year earlier. However, part of handling him meant (very short) time outs for misbehaving where I would have to sit beside him (while pointedly giving no interesting attention to him) to stop him when he inevitably tried to get up and run away from the char (which happened multiple times per time-out originally). The first time we used this timeout policy I had to physically stop him probably a dozen times in just a few minutes.
I had the mother's defacto permission in this case; however, I don't know how I would have handled this child if I didn't have explicit permission to physically restrain him if needed. I could see some overbearing parents being quite displeased with the same course of action I used with this child if I hadn't gotten express permission.
So my question is how do you handle these situations as a defacto-authority figure? How do you know where the limit of the authority afforded to you by the parents are, and when they would consider it crossed. And what methods do I have to deal with infractions, including fighting between children, which really can't be ignored, if the child won't cooperate with me and I don't know what authority I have?