Leadership Is Like Parenting

Your Child's Self Esteem by Dorothy Corkille Briggs

Your Child’s Self Esteem by Dorothy Corkille Briggs

Your Child’s Self-Esteem by Dorothy Corkille Briggs is a guide for parents who want to gain insight on how to raise children with high self-esteem. A member of Phi Beta Kappa and other honoraries, Dorothy Corkille Briggs has worked as a teacher, school psychologist, and relationship counselor. While this is essentially a parenting book, it delivers some powerful lessons on leadership and personal development.

Self-esteem: A Foundation For Personal Development

Briggs defines self-esteem as follows:

(…) how a person feels about himself. It is his over-all judgment of himself – how much he likes his particular person.

The concept of self-esteem is as relevant a quality for adults as it is for children because it is the key factor that determines how we respond to situations and opportunities presented to us. And that in turn, influences our capacity for success and failure.

(…) if your child has high self-esteem, he has it made. Mounting research shows that the fully-functioning child (or adult) is different from the person who flounders through life

(…) self-esteem is the mainspring that slates every child for success or failure as a human being.

As a crucial marker of emotional health, self-esteem also dictates the quality and nature of our social interactions and relationships, both personal and professional.

(…) The key to inner peace and happy living is high self-esteem, for it lies behind successful involvement with others.

We Are Mirrors To Our Children

Briggs suggests that as parents, we are like mirrors to our children. What we project to them is what they will believe to be “the truth”. And most of what we convey to our children is not through what we say, but through what we do. Isn’t that an enormous responsibility? What better reason for personal transformation than this? As parents, we have it upon us to offer our children the best version of ourselves and lead by example. Similarly, as leaders we influence those around us, not by our words, but by our actions.

(…) parenthood is too important for the ‘by-guess-and-by-golly” approach. Awareness of the facts can help you discharge your responsibilities toward those entrusted to your care, give you confidence as a parent, and point a way for your own personal development.

Have you ever thought of yourself as a mirror? You are one – a psychological mirror your child uses to build his identity. And his whole life is affected by the conclusions he draws.

(…) To the young child, others –especially his parents – are infallible mirrors. When his mother describes him as bad, Pete concludes this must be one of the qualities he possesses and hangs his label on himself for that particular moment. Her words (and attitudes) carry tremendous weight.

In this regard, it is important to note that our words and actions must agree with each other, as a conflict between the two will only give out confusing signals. This can only be achieved through a process of self-realization and self-actualization.

(…) words have power. They can shred or build self-respect. But words must match true feelings. High self-esteem does not come from buttering children up; in fact, nothing could be worse. Unless words and attitudes jibe, children detect the discrepancy. Then they learn not to trust what we say.

(…) Because you see others – and particularly your children – in the light of your own self-attitudes, a necessary check on the mirroring you provide involves looking at your own self-esteem. What are the answers to the question, ‘Who am I?’

Presence, Focus, And Full Attention

It is interesting to observe how some of the concepts around meditation, focused attention and living in the present, that we have addressed in some of our articles like Meditation: From Doing To Being and Do You Live In The Present, come across as prominent elements for effective parenting in Briggs’ narrative. According to the author, giving our children periodic undivided attention and focusing on them as “individuals” rather than a set of duties to be accomplished can be a good exercise in mindfulness and being fully present in the moment.

(…) Many parents are with their children physically, but mentally their focus is elsewhere. (…)

Children are highly sensitive to the degree of focused attention they receive.

(…) Each child needs periodic genuine encounters with his parents. Genuine encounter is simply focused attention. It is attention with a special intensity, born of direct personal involvement. Vital contact means being intimately open to the particular, unique qualities of your child.

(…) Few of us live in the present with focused attention. Locked in the past or concentrating on the future, we are not in the present, which is, after all, the only time we actually have. We try to be everywhere at once. Then, in a sense, we are nowhere.

(…) Do you focus so much on doing things for your child that you forget to focus on him as a person? Do you rush so fast to bake the cookies, sew clothes, make money for his education, that you overlook him?

Or do you take time our – in those small moments when he brings a feeling or thought, or during a special time he can count on – to be fully open to him?


Every person, however old or young, yearns to be understood without being judged. To be able to provide that sense of empathy is a marker of good parenting and true leadership.

There is a special word for the kind of understanding we all crave. It is empathy.

(…)Empathy is being understood from your point of view.

It means that another person enters your world and proves that he understands your feelings by reflecting back your message. He temporarily sets aside his world to be “with” you in all subtleties of meaning that a particular situation has for you. As Carl Rogers has pointed out, the emphatic person is with you not to agree or disagree, but rather to understand without judgement.

If you are interested in Empathy in the context of leadership, you may enjoy Roman Krznaric’s talk in our article Empathy: From “Me” to “We”.

Your Child’s Self-Esteem by Dorothy Corkille Briggs is a wonderful book for anyone interested in growing and developing as a parent, and as a leader.

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