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Throwback Thursday: Blast to the Bygone – Berenstain Bears

Berenstain Bears is one of the earliest shows that I remember watching. With its emphasis on country values, family ties, and community, watching The Berenstain Bears was like a breath of fresh air in today’s world. Berenstain Bears started out as a children’s book series created by Stan and Jan Berenstain in 1962, and it led to the creation of a TV series as a result of increased popularity.

The show was about a family of anthropomorphic bears who live in Bear Country, a region that comprises solely of bears. The family consists of Mama Bear, Papa Bear, Brother Bear, Sister Bear, and Honey Bear (who was introduced as the third child in 2000). I remember rushing home from school, preparing my favourite snacks and watching the show everyday. The two fifteen-minute episodes were always enjoyable to watch.

This may be random, but I’d like to point something out. I don’t know if it was just me, but as a kid, I always found it peculiar how the main characters were named after the role they play. For instance, Mama bear is the mother, Papa Bear is the father, and Brother Bear and Sister Bear are siblings. This didn’t apply to the supporting characters however, such as the school bully Too-Tall and Sister Bear’s best friend, Lizzy Bruin.

Anyway, if you remember the title song, there’s a line that says, “The bear fact is that they’re just like you and me; the only difference is they live in a tree”. That being said, I love how Berenstain Bears was relatable to children of all ages, backgrounds and ethnicities since the show’s focus was on relationships and a foundation of good values and social lessons. The episodes dealt with real-life situations that actually occur among family members, friends, etc. The show even went against the traditional gender norms that are often portrayed in shows. This can be seen when Mama Bear started a quilting business and how Papa Bear often chores to help out. I also love how the show’s innocence portrays the wonder of just being a kid. My favourite part of each episode was when one or more of the bears read a short rhyme in the beginning of the episode, teaching a good lesson. An example of this would be when Brother Bear says, “When you’re playing games and having fun, make sure the joy is shared by everyone” in the episode “Berenstain Bears – Hug and Make Up”. I watched the show so often that I ended up subconsciously memorizing all the rhymes.

Mama and Papa always helped their cubs in making thoughtful decisions that reflect the family’s values. They served as positive role models who provide their cubs with the tools to make morally correct decisions and become better individuals, rather than simply  telling them what to do. They encouraged their cubs to work hard, obey rules, stay true to themselves, and engage in healthy activities and friendships.

Let’s take a look at some important life lessons the Bears taught us.

The episode follows Sister Bear as she learns the importance of sharing. Children learn that being selfish causes people to not want to play with you, or that not sharing causes hurt feelings. It makes for stronger relationships, and it is just a nice gesture. It is important for children to learn how to share early on in life, and the episode did a good job of covering that. 

In today’s world, we often get caught up in the world of technology, particularly the Internet. Many are becoming addicted to social media such as Facebook and Twitter, and spend countless hours on the Internet, so much so that they begin to lose touch with the real world. Overuse of social media has taken a serious toll on us; it affects our relationships, mental health, social life, and grades, often negatively. In this episode, Papa and Mama Bear emphasize how important it is to limit computer time, interact with people in real-life and spend time doing other productive things.

In this episode, Queenie McBear tries to take over by putting other cubs down. Sister Bear experiences hurtful teasing and feels very upset, however she decides not to give in to Queenie’s peer pressure. As much as we think we don’t succumb to peer pressure now that we are older, it isn’t true. I know several people who continue to do things under pressure, but claim they’re doing it out of free will because, let’s be real, who likes admitting they were peer pressured into doing something?  Viewers are left with the understanding that there will always be peer pressure – it is crucial to remember to stay true to yourself and not do things for the sake of being ‘cool’. Do not do things that make you uncomfortable; your true friends will love you for who you are.

The episode shows how Lizzy and Sister Bear play school and get into a fight over who will get to be the teacher. After Mama Bear finishes explaining the value of friendship and compromising, Lizzy comes to the door and the two cubs make up. This episode teaches children the value of friendship, as well as the fact that learning to compromise is an important skill. This means that in order to avoid conflict, each person has to give up part of what they want, and work together to reach a mutual agreement. Children learn that they must learn to compromise in order to maintain friendships (as well as other relationships).

Brother Bear is infuriated when Cousin Fred accidentally damages his brand-new bike. Sister Bear decides to help Brother Bear calm down and reminds him that it’s good to put stuff behind us and forgive others. It goes without saying that is extremely important to learn to forgive those who have done us wrong. Forgiveness allows us to control our own happiness and brings us peace of mind. It also helps us see experiences as lessons learned (in this case, Brother Bear learned to be careful with his possessions and put them away if he doesn’t want others touching it). The Bears taught us that forgiving is the right thing to do. It allows us to let go of pent-up anger (which is harmful), and acknowledge that everyone makes mistakes and love them anyway.

This episode shows us Sister Bear’s jealousy when Brother Bear receives a brand-new, ten-speed, shiny bike for his birthday. Jealousy is a very common issue with children. When one child gets a new toy, another child will most likely be overcome with jealousy. Mama Bear did an excellent job in discussing jealousy and envy with her daughter. What’s special about this episode is that it showed that adults are prone to jealousy as well, since Papa Bear was jealous of his friend. I remember this episode in particular to this day, because I loved the concept of the Green-Eyed Monster. I was more aware of my feelings and made a conscious attempt to not feel jealous when something good happened to others and not me. This episode taught children to be happy with what you have, be happy for others, and to not let the “Green-Eyed Monster” get to you.

When the Bear family goes on a fishing trip to the creek, they are shocked to discover that the town dump is overflowing. Seeing the garbage as a great threat to Bear Country’s environment, Brother and Sister Bear create the Earthsavers Club. This episode addresses environmental issues very well and is age-appropriate. It is crucial to educate children about what to do to help keep pollution under control. Their spirited ecological efforts deliver a strong, timely message to the viewers about the urgent need to mend our polluting and wasteful ways. Unless we all feel personally responsible for the despicable state of our planet right now, nothing will change. After all, it is our planet. This is what we will leave behind for our future generations; if we don’t step up and change our ways, who will?  This is an issue I feel very strongly about. 

Source: organizationrules.wordpress.com

Source: organizationrules.wordpress.com

The episode starts off with Brother Bear and Sister Bear visiting their friends, and upon their return, they eagerly begin talking about the new toys their friends have. Mama Bear has had enough by this point, as apparently the cubs have been doing this often. I really loved this one because in my opinion, I am a very optimistic person, so I loved how Mama Bear taught the cubs to count their blessings instead. She makes her cubs realize it isn’t important what others have and whether or not the cubs have the same toys; what matters is that they have a loving family, shelter, food, clothes, etc. and that we should always be thankful to be blessed with these things. The episode was a great way of introducing gratitude to children.

Needless to say, there are many lessons that the Berenstain Bears taught us. Looking back, I now appreciate the show in different ways. Whereas before I watched it for entertainment purposes and unknowingly incorporated the lessons into my life, I now fully realize the value of those life lessons. The bears somehow easily taught complicated lessons – lessons which adults have trouble learning/following to this day. I’ll be the first to admit that if we all reread the books and/or rewatched the episodes, we’d probably see how much we have changed and be reminded of the life lessons that we seem to have forgotten.

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About shefalijain19 (4 Articles)
Shefali is a fourth year student at Glendon, York University. She is a French Studies major and an English minor, and is an aspiring teacher. She has a passion for language learning, dance, and supporting various social causes and raising awareness.

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