BOSTON (CBS) – If you have raised a child or even just read to one anytime over the past half-century, chances are you’re familiar with the Berenstain Bears books, a series of children’s stories about a momma bear and poppa bear dealing with the issues that come up while raising their two cubs.

Listen to Jon’s commentary:

Reading through the obits yesterday for Jan Berenstain, half of the husband-and-wife team that wrote the Berenstain Bears books, I was surprised to learn how much heat they took from critics of their very popular series.

According to the Associated Press: the series “has been called …’hokey’ and ‘little more than stern lectures dressed up as children’s stories.’”

When Jan’s husband and collaborator died in 2005, the Washington Post wrote: “Is this what we really want from children’s books…a world filled with scares and neuroses and problems to be toughed out and solved? And if it is, aren’t the Berenstain Bears simply teaching to the test, providing a lesson to be spit back, rather than one lived and understood and embraced?”

Judging from the news out of Lynn yesterday, where 27 high school students were suspended for cheering on and taking videos of an ugly fight between two girls, it seems that the Berenstain Bears, however inartfully, have been filling a void when it comes to kids learning values, manners, and how to deal with real-life issues.

Those hokey bear parents appeared to spend a lot of time trying to teach their cubs good judgment, and adjusting their own behavior to serve as good role models.

These simple lessons may have lacked the nuance or sophistication craved by critics, most of whom, I’m willing to bet, had never raised a kid.

But given their huge popularity with children, it seems they’re hitting a nerve.

Kids crave guidance about how to behave and what the limits are.

Too often, as we see in the Lynn incident, they’re not getting it.

Maybe what we need is more hokey lectures that teach to the test, not fewer.

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. and 12:25 p.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.

Comments (26)
  1. Stephen Stein says:

    The Berenstain Bears were a favorite with my kids, and with my wife and I as well. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with hokey. The Berenstains left a lasting, wonderful contribution to child rearing, and they shall be missed.

  2. blackbear1 says:

    Excellent post Jon.. Don’t always agree w/you, but that was spot on. Parenting, example, consistency, fairness, structure. It goes on and on. The critics of the Berenstains do not have it right!!

  3. tsalnew says:

    Jon my oldest is expecting her second child in a few weeks. She looked everywhere to find a book about the older sibling. Every book she found was graphic to the point of ridiculous for a three year old. I suggested she look through Amazon at the Berenstain Bears and guess what she found – several wonderful books that were absolutely age appropriate. I had not heard of Jan Berenstain’s passing and felt sad when I read your post. The books dealt with every day issues a child faces without getting carried away.

    As far as Lynn – I think that was overboard. I’ve said on other posts that there was a Leave it to Beaver episode about kids running to the park to see a fight – an ear was reportedly bitten off which was an exaggeration. Maybe the parents need to get back to the teaching of the Berenstain’s and the schools and towns should do what they do best – teach and not parent.

    1. tsalnew says:

      it finally posted – sorry for the duplicate comments. I have to learn not to directly address he who cannot be named but authors this blog because it seems to go to review when his name is mentioned:)

  4. Willow says:

    Kids need stability and boundaries in their life. They’ll never admit it, but when there is structure in the home, it gives a child a sense of security.

  5. tsalnew says:

    I have to remember not to use the name of the person who authors this blog – it seems to toss the comment into review. Oh well – it usually appears after a bit!

  6. 1stackmack says:

    its the “time out generation”,kids will always push the envelop so far as cut there toung on it.sending a kid to ” time out ” isn’t a punishment.maybe for breaking something in house or other small issues.but suspending some 30 kids from school for just being at a fight no even on school a glorified time out.and those kid didn’t do anything wrong for the most part.when l was growing up,l had the belt or wooden spoon as a reminder not to F around.and l never F ed around.l wasn’t the best in school,some of my blogs prove that.but l got through it.remember just the sound of a wipe like crack from a belt is plenty of motivation.

    1. tsalnew says:

      onestack – I agree with you that the fight was blown out of proportion. Fights have been around as long as I can remember – it’s part of growing up. Doesn’t make them right – how they are handled is what makes the difference. It should be a learning experience.

      1. ginny2 says:

        A fight is a fight, and there are never necessary or the answer. There was a story on CNNs site about an 11 year old girl who punched a 10 year old girl in the face, the 10 yr old nver threw a punch back. The 10 yr old did not fall and hit her head or anything, but 6 hours later she was dead after undergoing emergency brain surgery. The punch to the face forced the girls head to snap at just the right angl eto rupture an artery. Now there is an 11 yr old facing charges and 2 familes suffering a loss.

  7. toni says:

    I still fail to see what right the school had to punish these kids. The fight took place off school grounds, and after school hours. Therefore, I don’t believe the school had any right to suspend these kids especially the ones who watched the fight.

    Yes, maybe they should have broken the fight up, or called the police, but the bottom line is, they had no legal obligation to do so period! So, if they didn’t commit any crime, why punish them?

    As for the criminal charges filed against these girls, that is a joke too. If these girls don’t file charges of assault and battery against each other, the case will be dropped. It’s just a waist of the police departments time and money to file charges against the girls.

    I just hope the parents of these kids file an appeal of the suspensions with the school to get them dropped.

  8. emom says:

    Bring back the days of yesterday, they way children were raised , disciplined and nurtured.. Today it is so radically different. Parents let their kids be free spirited, express themselves, venture out at a much earlier age unsupervised, Do things many would never allow back in the day,, BUT these same parents would be the first ones to cast stones when they are told they are in the wrong. they state its their right to do what ever they want, to deal with stuff on their own even at the age of 3 years old, REALLY, Little or no guidance, little or no discipline, Little or no Nurturing, Call me old fashion , But I rather be their for my kid, show my kid the rights from the wrongs, in anything he would have to deal with, discuss with him on the problems he will face, teach him how to deal with problems,,, Rather letting him be thrown to the wolves and figure it out on his own,, This has been a big problem amongst many kids today.. Parents seem to turn their backs and tell their kids ,, FIGHT BACK , KICK SOME YOU KNOW WHAT,, smack them around,,, more and more violence, lets not forget , extreme disrespecting others even adults,,, Kids as young as 7 walking around swearing at adults,, just because,,, no real reason,,,showing lack of respect for anyone, including adults,. And we wonder why kids are out of control, and these parents state,,, I DONT KNOW WHAT TO DO<<< AHHHH how about parenting your kids and using your voice and using limits,,,, cant stand seeing kids at the street cornerm in parking lots, hanging around doing nothig and then being rude to people for no reasonm,,, My kid ever did that I gaurentee there will be conscecensess.. Something most kids never get,,,,,,,, WAKE UP PARENTS, KIDS ARE OUT OF CONTROL…….

    1. jaygee says:

      The days of yesterday when Ozzie & Harriet and the Brady Bunch were watched, even though it was all make believe. You have to remember that those old days of “discipline & nurture” produced the likes of Al Capone, Whitey Bulger, Prohibition and the rampant crime of the 20’s & 30’s. They didn’t go for this discipline thing either.

      1. emom says:

        Jaygee,, well that is all true,, HOWEVER, back in the 50’s thru the 70’a when I grew up life was simple and well you didn’t dare step out of line,,, I grew up with 4 cousins all boys,,, Learned how to be ruff as them,, But we also had respect for each other and we never dared speak out of line to an adult,, We never crossed the line with the law and did good in school Sure there were kids that BUCKED the system But their punishment was extreme ,, dad or worse mom found out you got the tar beat out of you ,,,, and if you didn’t learn it was boot camp somewhere in the middle of now where,, Knew a few kids that happened to ,, it did straightened them out,,, But back then parents where involved with their kids they gave out punishments and many became good kids My point is today to many parents rather look the other way and blame school , society,the government,, instead of themselves,,, When did it happen,,, When did parents no longer be parents,, When did they simply stop caring about their children and only care about other things,, . I have said it here many times,, parents are not parents to their kids,, they are merely a vessel to have them feed them and thus throw them to the world.. let the world handle them ….. That’s why kids act the way they do,these girls fighting , OK sure we fought back in the day.. but it was so much different ..and for much different reasons…. these girls I mean whats was their reason for the fight,, over someones boyfriend,,, Hello paranoid much girls, jealousy, really now… Look at what many of them watch,,, they have no concept of what life is all about never mind what or how to be future adults,,,, shows like the bachelor or bachelorette, really what doe sit teach them how to fight for stuff and what how a relationship looks like REALLY NOW… give me the cleavers and the Cunningham’s any day , No kids are growing up in a world of give me, I want, its mine, I have to have it, Its mine and I plan on taking it, He will be mine cause I will steal him from you ,, I can take whatever I want,,, you have to give it to me, and the walk ,, oh wow the get the H@CK out of my way since you dont belong here walk,,, really We see it all the time,,,, and the way many dress, call me old fashion but its getting out of control,, Sorry to say,, , it’s like the combat zone in many of the towns and cities… I guess I see things so much different since the way I was raised was to respect others, and to not be selfish… I have to say its has gotten me thru life so far Why change now, ans having a kid I have taught him the same way,,, He is learning a great lesson and see’s the wrongs overthe rights, and knows whats the best thing to do,,,, Kids today will fail in the future and itwill be their parents fault, and well in the future they will regret it,, its already starting to show… how sad…..

    2. tsalnew says:

      emom – I agree with a lot of what you are saying but much of what you say happened in the 50s as well as now. Kids always hung out in front of Brighams when I was young. Kids fought and —- shhhhhh don’t tell anyone – I got ticked enough once when a couple of boys made fun of my brother because he was dyslexic so beat them up. But my parents handled it – not the schools and not the neighbors kids and not the authorities. Part of learning is to make mistakes and kids have to be allowed to do just that.

      1. emom says:

        Well I grew up in the 60’s thru the 80’s and many of what you said happened then , difference is respect,,,back then,, it does not exist today..Let me tell you about a girl that was so relentless in bulling me, I was tortured for months by her, I kept it secret didn’t say a word, until I was so upset and my mom knew something was wrong,, we talked and she told me i could fight back with out resorting to a fist fight and getting hurt,, Most of what happened from the hands of this girl was verbal,, Hey but its still bulling and it hurts , but finally one day it became physical,, mom told me if someone touches you you can defend yourself,, I did and the bullying stopped right then and there.. she had threatened me pushing me around literally and threatened to push me on to the train tracks,, something inside of me snapped and I turned around and pushed her back toward a wall,, away from harm, I pinned her against the wall not hurting her like she did me but warned her that if she did plan on hurting me that she would and will regret it,,, I was stern and loud and it worked she backed of and never tried anything,, But I never started any fights, never hurt her or anyone,… But I stood up for my self and still had respect for others Its called good parenting,,, something I have said before and will always say parents do not want to get involved and let them figure stuff out,, or they push them to what these girls did,, fight dirty,, sorry it does not have to be that way… Hey I made plenty of mistakes but in no way did it every result in hurting anyone even my parents,, behavior like this leads to trouble with the law.. I guess I had respect for them as well since I have never crossed that line with the law,,, didn’t dare to ,,,,

      2. tsalnew says:

        emom – in a nutshell you said it all – it’s the respect that is missing. It’s from the top down because the parents have no respect so where do the kids learn it. My husband has fits because if I stop for an adult to cross the street and the adult has children with him/her and doesn’t say thank you I’ll yell out “nice way to teach your child manners.”

        BUT as I said at some point here, I am starting to see the respect return. I think there is an age group where it was lost but more and more young parents with kids are figuring out the problem. There is hope………… I hope:)

  9. Enough says:

    I was in a store the other day and an approx 15-year old boy wanted something and his mother told him no, so he then proceeded to loudly and nastily call her every nasty word I have heard (and some I haven’t!!) and she just kept shopping and took it, then she even gave in and bought him what he wanted! He was so out-of-control nasty and completely disrespectful to his mother. And when he got what he wanted, he said to her “that’s more like it beeyatch!” And she took it! Unreal. I see it everywhere, in restaurants kids run wild and parents ignore or weakly attempt to shush them. My friend told me she won’t punish her teens because that is just mean and they’d miss out on too much. ??? My kids do not get away with it, just like I didn’t get away with it. Parents want to be their kids friends, that does not teach them to be respectful, responsible adults!

    1. emom says:

      Enough , Its discouraging to see that kind of behavior,, how about a 5 year throwing themselves on the floor all because mom would not buy them something,, I mean I saw this girl so angry that she walked up to her mom kicked her, spit on her, punched her in the back , Mind you she was pregnant, Then started to climb into the carriage where her baby brother was sitting hitting him and then throw stuff from the cart onto the floor, At what point does a mother stop such behavior,,, I walked passed them ans said loudly to my son,,, if you had ever pulled that cr@p with me I would have taken you straight home.. i would never had put up with any of that ,, But this is normal with so many kids today,, and The way these kids so young speak to adults even their parents this is what I am saying , kids are out of control and parents are not being parents,, they want to be their friends AAAHHH NO<,, My kid took a temper tantrum ONCE<<,,,,,, ONCE< it never happened again… he is a good kid and has respect for adults and other people younger than him, says please and thankyou and does not demand So I guess I have done wrong on how I raised my kid,,,
      Enough maybe we are just wrong in how we see things,,,, I hear you, its totally wrong ,,,,,,,But they will pay the price in the long runn,, Oh I have to say I know someone in my family that has let her kid get away with bad behavior , she demands she gets, she speaks wrongly to adults and they thing its cute, she whines and they console, Its not real whining,, its her form of a temper,,,, she tells them what she wants to do and where to go and they all comply, In the end this girl is incontrol and the parents are mere puppets,,, Oh forgot to say she is now 18 in college and still calls the shots since she comes home on weekends , cant stay at colllege to get the experience,, cant do anythnig on her own,,, Thinking she will not make it in the future on her own and will need someoned to show her how to do things, now that is what I call truly sad,,,, stupid girl and parents.. sad thing I know them……

      1. Enough says:

        I hear you, what worries me is if the majority of parenting these days is resulting in these useless, spoiled, disrespectful kids, who will run the country when are old??? Then again, today’s politicians aren’t any good lol

  10. tsalnew says:

    To Berenstain bears – their books are timeless. The ones about birth and older sibling were the only age appropriate ones that my oldest could find for her three year old to explain what would happen when the baby is born. The new books are ridiculously graphic. I’ll take hokey before showing a three year old actual birth. I think kids today are not allowed to be kids – not allowed to be hokey.

  11. jaygee says:

    Preaching to kids rarely works. Talk to them the way you wanted to be talked to when you were a kid. Be fair, be tough and be realistic. Don’t try to bring them up to your level because they don’t want to be there. The most important thing is to understand that most kids think that anyone over the age of 30 isn’t relevant unless they are in movies or music videos.

    1. tsalnew says:

      I always talked to my kids at my level and there were times I was frustrated enough to preach too. But then they always had tremendous respect for older individuals – still do – so maybe that’s why.

  12. tsalnew says:

    Enough and emom – I would have agreed with you both a year ago. I do believe we have a span of kids who were brought up to never be told no but it seems the newer parents are figuring out that doesn’t work. I’ve noticed quite often that young kids are being brought to not necessarily kid friendly restaurants and they are well behaved. If they fuss, the parent will immediately remove them adn they always look at the childless diners and say they are sorry. It’s actually the adults that I find to be totally obnoxious. They laugh and talk loudly as if they are the only ones in the dining room. They talk on their cell phones so the entire place can hear the conversation.

    If, however, the occasionally child is running around, I also don’t hesitate to speak up since I am not at a restaurant to have a child running around the area.

    1. Enough says:

      I hope you are right! I have friends with kids 8-14 and they are so disrespectful and spoiled. And yes, parents are clueless as well with parenting, cell phone use….. I really hope the newest parents are disciplining more. Imagine the world if all the new adults couldn’t handle anything because they had always been coddled, spoiled, never told no, had always controlled everything in their relationships with their parents…… very scary. Many employers are saying that they youngest employees have to be coddled, they have to be allowed to be late because they are used to getting up when they want to, applauded when they do come to work, constantly reassured and praised, never given more responsibility than they want to have. I’ve read so many articles about that, and about older workers who are horrified to see it

  13. Nicole says:

    When we have kids watching completely disgusting shows like family guy and American dad how can we expect them to act respectful. Tv shows are not the downfall it’s the PARENTS. Parents are no longer parenting. People amaze me that let their children watch these shows and more just like it. Trouble is the TV is raising these kids they learn all their morals and spoiled ‘it’s all about me’ attitude from the boob tube and watching their parents emulate the same attitude. I’m worried about the future. No one is taught what it means to be responsible anymore and how to cope. It’s ridiculous. And we are worried the Bernstein bears are not realistic? Yea okay…….Wake up America!!! Get control of your kids. I worked in school system that could do nothing with these out of control kids because the parents would not step up and deal with them. Kids are suspended and are not punished at home, cell phones are not taken away, no boundaries, no discipline and they wonder why their kids are failing! I’m just disgusted.

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