If looking after grandchildren is for the majority of grandparents a pleasure — well, let's face it, sometimes a chore if parents tend to perceive them a little too often as the good pasta of babysitters — always happens the moment of the dreaded caprice, placed under the signs of "I want" and its negative, "no!", and "if!". What to do in these cases? This is a question that is already very difficult for parents to answer, and which proves to be just as difficult, albeit in a different way, for you, his grandparents.
The delicacy for grandparents is that they do not represent the same authority figure as the parents for the child. This means on the one hand that they do not have the same freedom to scold and punish the urchin as the parents can have, or at least that they must strive to stay within the nails of the rules fixed by these the latter (it is a question of being neither too lax on the one hand, nor too severe on the other, compared to them), and on the other hand that they find themselves having to remind the child that they are entitled to exercise a certain authority over him, despite the complicity that may reign between them. Because the grandparent benefits from a special relationship with the child, and can be the opposite of the parents, in turn play partner, confidant - it is not uncommon for them to come out, some children first confide in their grandparents rather than their parents — but also the adult in charge of setting the limits and reminding the child of this position of authority he holds over him.
Discuss the subject with parents as well:all children are capricious, yes, but they may be more tempted to cross the line with you if they perceive this delicate position in which you find yourself. If the child turns out to be significantly more capricious towards you, it means that there is a problem to be solved and therefore undoubtedly some nuts to be adjusted to clean up your relationship. Put things in their place and ask the parents to do the same:that the capricious little one understands that when grandpa or grandma says or decides on something, his word is as significant as when it comes to dad or mom. Conversely, if the child is capricious, at home or even at home, this does not necessarily mean that he is too spoiled or badly brought up. All children have tantrums — some more than others, admittedly — so don't be too quick to blame parents for failing in their education.
Because a whim is above all the expression of a frustration, which the child is not able to express other than by behaving inappropriately, which is of course perceived as unpleasant by the adults who surround. Yet it is therefore an inevitable stage of his development - remember yours when they were little! — and rest assured, a capricious child does not necessarily grow up in adolescent terror, it is even sometimes the opposite. The child must nevertheless of course during his development come to understand which frustrations are legitimate to express, which ultimately have nothing of the intentional character that we associate with the word "whim" - for example, a refusal to eat which actually hides physiological disorders — and which ones are less so, what can be described as "real" whims — for example, the fact of rolling on the ground in a large area because one refuses to buy a toy.
To use the terms used by Freud, caprice is the result of the discovery in children of the conflict between the "pleasure principle" and the "reality principle", which cohabit within the psyche of everyone, and not only in children. The first principle designates the tendency to want to satisfy one's desires, while the second forces us to modify these by taking into account the reality that surrounds us, that is to say the practicality of these desires. For example:I would like to go on vacation, but I don't have any more RTT and I can't afford it anyway. In children, this would translate rather:I want to eat sweets, but my parents tell me to finish my vegetables, which are better for my health. Result:whim.
However, it seems unlikely to imagine an adult having a fit because his boss does not grant him the requested leave, however unfair the decision may seem to him. It is because the conflict between these two principles has been well integrated, precisely during childhood:do we not speak of the "age of reason"? This is supposed to occur around the age of seven – although we sometimes wonder if some people ever reach it! — and designates this internalization of social and moral rules and values. Caprice is therefore a necessary stage in the development of a child, who thus learns little by little that in life, we unfortunately do not do everything we want. By the same token, the child also gradually realizes that he is not the center of the world, and that the others around him are also individuals in their own right with their own desires and desires, which conversely leads to building it as an individual, thereby marking his desires, his emotions, in opposition to his parents... or in the case that interests us, to his grandparents.
Since prevention is better than cure, the first thing to do is to discuss with the parents to establish clear rules in advance on which there is no need to procrastinate. No screens after a certain hour, no soda or candy, and so on. It is the parents who have the last word in this regard, and it would be unfortunate if children were not subject to the same rules in your home as in their own homes, which would only justify future whims. Also agree on any possible punishments to be applied, if the child goes beyond the limits. The upbringing of children, though you may contribute in a minor way, is primarily determined by their parents, who are both legislators and enforcers — and it would be unfair to put you in a position where you find yourself forced to to dictate. Once all these rules are clearly established, it will be easier for you to avoid missteps.
But of course, it is not possible to foresee everything, and whether the rules are the same at home or with the grandparents, this will not prevent the child from having tantrums. In these cases, it is first important to reaffirm your respective roles:no, you are not his parents, but yes, you have an authority over him that he must accept. But no question of stupid and nasty punishment. It is necessary to explain to the child why you oppose his desires. This will not prevent him from being furious, but this is how he will integrate, little by little, this famous principle of reality. A good way to explain this to him is to show him that you don't always do what makes you happy either:for example, that you don't eat everything you want either, because such and such a problem of health prevents you from doing so. And then, be smart and defuse situations by giving him the impression that he is the one who decides, for example by letting him choose between two options, or even by creating a diversion, by talking to him about your own whims of child or other.
Finally, of course, and at the risk of contradicting the advice given above, it may be acceptable to break the established rules a little. After all, we said, you are "just" his grandparents. There is no death of man to make some deviations from the rules fixed by the parents, and it is in fine it is up to them to ensure that these are respected on a daily basis. On the other hand, the child must not have the impression that you are giving in to his whim, but simply that you are doing him a favor, and that you are sharing a moment of complicity there, outside of everyday life with dad and mom. For the child, it is a question of thinking that the time spent with grandpa and grandma is a somewhat special moment, where the ordinary rules do not always reign. But under no circumstances should he tell himself that with his grandparents, everything is allowed and that he is the king of the world. It's a matter of nuance.
It may be tempting to give in to whim, in order to preserve your privileged relationship compared to that between the child and his parents, but remember that by doing so, you are not necessarily helping him. In the end, be firm and have the last word... and don't forget to reconcile!