Local mom creates book systems teaching kids that success is built on character.
Being a mother doesn’t come with a handbook. So Danielle LaBriola, mother of two, decided to write her own book. A series of them, actually.
Her book series, Crafting Character, is a five-trait system of books with accompanying interactive plushies that help cultivate the best character from kids.
“I struggled to conceive my ‘miracle babies’ so I went all-in trying to be a perfect parent,” says LaBriola.
Living in Coto de Caza with her 11-year-old twins, Jack and Scarlett, LaBriola says she planned amazing adventures for her kids.
“When my child asked, ‘Mom, what fun do you have planned for me today?’ — it hit me that I had been trying to raise happy kids, and in the process, I was raising entitled kids.”
LaBriola made it her mission to pivot her parenting strategy.
“I believe there is a lot to be gained from teaching kids to be kind and serve others rather than focusing on their individual success and happiness,” she says. “By focusing on behaviors such as kindness, we can help children become more confident, healthier and likable. They will end up becoming more successful and happier even faster.”
The Crafting Character book series starts with a story that includes real-life examples of the desired behavior for kids to learn. A stuffed-animal character is used to help them develop the behavior for 14 days, creating a new habit. For example, the Loving Bug system includes a story that teaches kids how to be kind, accompanied by a big stuffed ladybug who is missing her 14 black spots. As kids complete their 14 days of kind acts, they write what they have accomplished on a spot.
“As the ladybug grows her spots, the child grows in character,” LaBriola says.
She also says there are many layers of reinforcement taking place: visual reinforcement of the ladybug gaining spots, parental reinforcement as the child is encouraged for the positive behavior and third-party reinforcement from those on the receiving end of the acts. Not to mention the positive chemical reaction that occurs when we do kind acts for others.
LaBriola also points to research that suggests that our most ingrained habits are developed by the age of 9.
“Crafting Character is for kids ages 4-10, helping parents teach their kids these habits at the right times,” she says.
Other Crafting Characters include Environmental Ed (a tree) and The Charitable Chick, which won first and second place, respectively, at the Colorado Independent Publishers Association (CIPA) EVVY book competition.
Although LaBriola says she is hard-pressed to choose her own favorite.
“I feel that I can’t have a favorite because The Loving Bug is dedicated to my daughter and The Charitable Chick is dedicated to my son.”
The Charitable Chick system includes a story about a child with type 1 diabetes, which Jack was diagnosed with at age 2.
“That’s why I wrote The Charitable Chick book … and why we donate to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation,” she says.
Crafting Character also donates to other charities.
“Crafting Character tries to practice what we preach,” says LaBriola. “Each book system has a favorite charity that is related to the character trait and we donate to that cause.”
The Loving Bug gives to the Children’s Craniofacial Association and The Grateful Gobbler, a turkey, supports Meals on Wheels. Patriotic Pete, a bald eagle, gives to the Fisher House Foundation while Environmental Ed gives back by helping plant trees through the organization, One Tree Planted.
LaBriola says some families like to introduce new characters into their home for a particular holiday. For instance, The Grateful Gobbler is popular for Thanksgiving and The Loving Bug for Valentine’s Day. But since we are never finished building our character, the books can be nice to revisit.
“Some parents make them traditions, bringing them back as refreshers for strengthening habits around holidays.”
Moving forward, LaBriola hopes to continue building her children’s character as well as the character of her many readers.
“I want to help kids become better people who focus on others first and lift each other up,” says LaBriola. “I want them to know their value isn’t governed by a grade on a test or a trophy on the field. True success must be redefined as being a good person who is kind, giving, grateful, inclusive, respectful and cares about the planet.”
by Sarah Mosqueda