While there may be - at first glance - some rationale to justify corporal punishment, what many parents, caregivers, and educators didn't understand in the past was the consequences of such violence to a child's brain, in particular when a little spank is turning into beating or whipping. Indeed, fear and trauma really change how a growing brain works: a fact that wise parents and educators understood well before neuroscience confirmed it.

Today, while a growing number of parents know how to use consistent and compassionate discipline, a majority of them continue to spank their children, even against scientific evidence. Indeed, research has shown that spanking a child generally leads to higher rates of anxiety, depression and substance abuse; in a vicious circle perpetuated in families from generation to generation.

Four-year-old kids can be very difficult to manage. They live in the moment and can be extremely emotional, willful, stubborn and narcissistic. However, few children skip the intense developmental chaos of the early years and most parents face difficult challenges. But what should they do? Here are four tips for when your 4-year-old refuses to listen to you.

  1. Do not try to show who is the boss.

  2. Tantrums are your child's job. Yours is to stay loving but firm.

  3. Unconditional love and keeping cool are key, even if it can be frustrating.

  4. Young children can wear you out both physically and emotionally. Take a break for yourself anytime you need it. It's much more beneficial than spanking your child, for both of you.

A sassy 4-year-old (Washington Post illustration/Prisma filter/iStock)