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Literature / The Berenstain Bears

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Do we have to call them the "modern Wood Age family"?

"When you're reading this page
Don't get up your hopes
For even these bears
Cannot help but use tropes."
A TV Tropes related example of the little poems that are found at the beginning of the Berenstain Bear Books

The Berenstain Bears is a long-running children's book series created by Stan and Jan Berenstain (hey, that rhymes!) in 1962. It centers on a family of bears composed of Mama and Papa Bear, and their children, Brother (formerly Small), Sister, and Honey Bear. Yes, those are their real names. It started out as series of simple picture books in the line of Dr. Seuss, but soon evolved into a series of story picture books for children. Starting in 1993, the Berenstains (that's the authors) began writing Big Chapter Books, which put the characters into more serious situations in much longer (but still kid-oriented) books. The picture books have also taken several formats as well, ranging from small hardcovers written in rhyme, to square picture books. Almost all of the books take the title "The Berenstain Bears and __________"


Note that the name is spelled Berenstain. Spelling it Berenstein is a very common error, to the point that even official materials have (mis)spelled it that way occasionally.

There were also several Animated Adaptations over time: Christmas Tree, Meet Bigpaw, Easter Surprise, Valentine Special and Littlest Leaguer (also called Play Ball), all of which aired on NBC. A TV series (The Berenstain Bears Show) aired on CBS between 1985 and 1986, and a second began in 2003 on PBS Kids. The 1980s cartoon was an International Coproduction between the American and Australian Hanna-Barbera units and Aussie's Southern Star (originally a subsidiary of H-B AU prior to the end of The '80s, later folded into Endemol); the PBS series was produced by Nelvana. (Nelvana also currently holds the rights to the CBS series after Southern Star was folded into Endemol.) A feature film from Narnia company Walden Media and Night at the Museum's Shawn Levy was in the works, although nothing came out after its announcement, and this announcement confirmed that the film was "still in the script phase".


The entirety of the 2003 series is available on YouTube here, thanks to Nelvana's Treehouse Direct channel.

With Stan's death in 2005 and Jan's in 2012, their son Mike Berenstain continues to write more Berenstain Bears books for them to share with everyone else around the world.

Tropes present:

  • Absentee Actor:
    • In the 2003 series, Mama was missing from "On the Job", "Big Road Race" and "White Water Adventure", Papa was missing from "The Giddy Grandma", "On the Job", "Big Road Race" and "White Water Adventure", Brother was missing from "The Giddy Grandma", and Sister was missing from "On the Job".
    • In the 1985 series, the only episode where Mama and Papa Bear don't appear is "Save the Farm", which was also the Series Finale.
    • The book Escape of the Bogg Brothers has both Mama and Papa absent. The four Bear Detectives — Brother, Sister, Cousin Fred and Lizzie Bruin — are featured on their own against the titular criminals.
  • Abusive Parents: Tuffy's reason why she became a bully in The Berenstain Bears and the Bully.
  • Acting for Two: An in-universe example in the Big Chapter Book in the Freaky Funhouse, where some of the circus performers are also employees. For example, the circus boss Captain Billy is also the ringmaster, his enforcer Otto is Primo the World’s Strongest Bear, and their head clown is the janitor.
  • Actually Pretty Funny:
    • Once they get over the initial shock, this is Mama and Papa's reaction to the "Trouble with Grownups" play in the PBS version; in the picture book Mama Bear laughs with tears in her eyes in the audience while Papa stares in bewilderment. With the idea that turnabout is fair play when Mama and Papa dress up as the cubs.
    • Also, this is how the entire family reacts in the picture book of "Too Much Vacation" when they review their vacation photos, with appropriate captions.
    • Sister, after Brother Bear scares her with a mystery he reads aloud, is able to tease him about it after Papa Bear installs a nightlight in their bedroom. Meanwhile, ironically enough, Brother Bear is creeped out by the Nightmare Face she makes.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The cartoon adaptations of the storybooks would often add in scenes that weren't in the original stories. For example, the cartoon version of The Truth has Brother and Sister play a bit of soccer outside before they eventually go back inside and break Mama's lamp.
    • While the book version of Get the Gimmies simply dealt with the cubs' greed and tantrums, the cartoon inserted a "let's think of others in need" variation that changed the whole moral (probably because the original storyline would have been narmy and unfitting with the slow-paced tone of the show).
    • The cartoon version of The Sitter actually shows Mama & Papa Bear at the community meeting; apparently, their whole reason for going in the first place was because Papa was frustrated with the fact that the gas stations no longer served free coffee & donuts.
    • The cartoon version of The Trouble with Grownups gives an explanation as to Mama & Papa's bad tempers — Papa's jigsaw breaks down, so he needs to use the "for sale" section of the paper (which is why he gets mad at Brother for taking it without asking), and Mama has been expecting an important call, which is why she gets mad at Sister for hogging the phone. Also, Mama and Papa apologize for being hard on the cubs, and point out that while they agree that it isn't always easy being a cub, being a parent isn't easy either, leading to the role reversal when Brother and Sister disagree. Just like in the book, Brother and Sister promise to take newspapers from the recycling box when they need one and to try to stop using the phone so much respectively, but Mama and Papa also promise to try and be more patient with their children whenever things get stressful.
    • The cartoon version of Too Much Junk Food gives Papa and the cubs a reason to quit junk food — an annual race is coming up in Bear Country and the three find themselves wearing out after running a few miles. A visit to Dr. Grizzly has them realize they have to start eating healthy in order become fit for the race. One notable difference is that in the book Mama puts the junk food in the freezer so that the family would forget about them, whereas in the cartoon the cubs themselves put the snacks in the freezer after their visit to Dr. Grizzly. Also, in the original book, Mama and Dr. Grizzly manage to take the family clean off junk food, whereas the cartoon is more moderate with Dr. Grizzly stating that it's okay to eat such things from time to time.
    • Forget Their Manners, in the original book, was a glaringly obvious case of Compressed Vice; Brother, Sister, and Papa clean out of nowhere just suddenly forget everything about being polite for absolutely no reason. The cartoon version addresses this by having Brother and Sister attend a party that Too-Tall happens to be at, and his rude manners manage to rub off onto them.
    • Get in a Fight is also a good example of addressing Compressed Vice. In the original book, Brother and Sister getting into a fight with each other is mostly just shrugged off, and they just wake up one day angry at each other. In the cartoon version, there's buildup about "waking up on the wrong side of bed", and what happens when two people wake up in such a way.
    • In the original book The Week at Grandma's, we don't see much of Mama and Papa Bear's second honeymoon. But in the cartoon version, we do, and Mama and Papa don't have such a great time at the Grizzly Mountain Lodge compared to their first honeymoon, while Brother and Sister end up having fun staying with Grizzly Gramps and Gran (which seems to add to the life-lesson, as Brother and Sister thought they would not enjoy staying with the grandparents for a whole week while Mama and Papa have the time of their lives.)
    • The original book of Go to the Doctor just details Brother and Sister's checkup. The cartoon version goes on to show their little cousin Honey (not to be confused with their baby sister Honey who was born later in the book series) being nervous about her own first checkup and Sister acting out a pretend checkup with her at home to show her it's nothing to be afraid of.
    • One of the Big Chapter Books, Accept No Substitutes, is an expanded version of And The Substitute Teacher.
  • Adaptational Name Change: Mr. Smock, Mizz McGrizz and Bertha Broom have been re-named Mr. Drewberry, Widder Jones and Betsy respectively in the 2003 TV series.
  • Adults Are Useless: Unless they're your parents or grandparents. Especially don't contact the school authorities about bullies... wait...
  • Adults Dressed as Children: Mama and Papa in "The Trouble with Grown Ups" (both book and animated adaptation) as their own children going on a rampage screaming, running and demanding food and allowance money on the cubs to "show" them how they're really like. Their children don't necessarily misbehave to that extent, but they were pretty pissed by how their kids antagonized them in a play at school in front of every adult bear in town. To be fair, Brother and Sister find it Actually Pretty Funny and everyone bursts out in giggles.
  • Adult Fear: Surprisingly enough the fears are there even with a Sugar Bowl world:
    • Brother and Sister worry about getting shots at the doctor. Dr. Grizzly demonstrates that needles aren't so bad and they only hurt a little. Meanwhile, Papa is in denial that he's sick despite his constant sneezing; he's dismayed to find out he has a fever and a bad cold.
    • In "The Magic Toe-Shoes" that Sister sees, a ballerina loves dancing but keeps wobbling on her feet. She laments that she's never going to be able to pursue her dream career. Her instructor fortunately has a solution and restores her confidence.
    • "Learn About Strangers" features Papa Bear reading the news to Sister about a cub being kidnapped, and a suspect being questioned. That, plus the fairy tale he reads her, leaves her awake at night thinking about how talking to a stranger can lead to a child vanishing into thin air, maybe even being eaten. Sister the next day is a walking ball of nerves until Mama intervenes.
    • "Lost in Cyberspace" has Teacher Bob talk about the same thing: how random strangers on the Internet will take advantage of your personal information to lure you into a trap and kidnap you. Lizzie is shaken despite pointing out her dad is chief of police. She also finds other criminals by accident in a poetry chatroom and runs to school in a panic after realizing the poems are code for extortionist plans.
    • "No Guns Allowed" features a serious discussion about cubs bringing guns to school. Too-Tall scares the kids in the climax by bringing a water pistol to squirt Ferdy. Lizzie calls her dad, and everyone is worried Too-Tall wanted to actually kill Ferdy. Even though Ferdy uses their rubberband gun on Too-Tall, making him lose their feud by default, Brother and Sister are still shaken.
    • “Computer Trouble” has Sister create a social media account on Pawbook (Bear Country’s version of Facebook), only for a classroom bully to find her and post a hurtful message on her newsfeed.
  • An Aesop: Most every book tries to teach a lessonnote .
    • In "Gets In A Fight" Papa Bear tells them that fights happen all the time and they come and go like the weather. He uses the stormclouds clearing outside to illustrate. Since Brother and Sister can't even remember why they started fighting in the first place, they agree to make up.
    • Some of the Big Chapter ones are particularly hamfisted in doing so (such as No Guns Allowed, where Too-Tall gets busted for using a squirt gun and the police confiscate it). Reality Is Unrealistic: Under super-strict zero-tolerance (read zero-thinking) rules, kids can and have been suspended or even expelled simply for bringing squirt guns to schools, even if it was only by mistake. In certain cases, kids have even faced prosecution for this.
  • Aesop Amnesia: Papa Bear manages to forget one Aesop in the very same book about it. He calmly tells Mama to not throw a fit because the cubs accidentally broke a vase... but when they break a window, Berserk Button.
  • Affection-Hating Kid:
    • The animated Valentines Special is built on this trope, as Brother reacts with total disgust to pretty much anything related to romance and Valentine's Day.
    • In the Living Books adaptation of The Berenstain Bears in the Dark, clicking on Brother in the library will make him go through various books and react to them. One book, a romance, he reacts to by slamming it shut and going "Ew, yuck!"
  • All Bikers Are Hells Angels: In the PBS version of "New Neighbors", one of the reasons is that the mother of the house of the new neighbors rides a motorcycle, and Papa Bear apparently has this stereotype. Things finally come out alright in the end when Mama Bear ends up finding the motorcycle rather helpful for things like errands, and Papa resolves his feelings about the father of the house, whose lawn-mower machine he didn't trust at first.
  • Always a Bigger Fish: As seen in the climax of And the Double Dare, when Too-Tall is causing trouble, there's one sure way to stop him — for his dad, Two-Ton Grizzly, who's even more intimidating and a stern parent (but a nice guy at heart) to show up and scold him.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: The weasels in the Bear Scouts books and the cartoon are absolutely always evil, with no exceptions.
  • Ambiguous Syntax: In The Berenstain Bear Scouts in Giant Bat Cave, the scouts defend Giant Bat Cave from developers by taking advantage of the ambiguous syntax of its name to spread a rumor about the cave being inhabited by a giant vampire bat.
    Which is giant, the cave or the bat?
  • Animal Lover: Applies to both of the cubs, for instance, Sister was the one who saved the baby chipmunk one time, and both of them were the ones who suggested getting Little Lady the dog.
  • Animated Adaptation: See above.
  • Animated Musical: The original specials have a music number roughly every five minutes or so.
  • Anti-Advice: In the early book The Bike Ride, Papa tries to teach Small Bear how to ride the new bike he got, and continually messes up everything from getting on to negotiating hills and puddles. To cover for himself, he insists that he's showing his son what not to do. Small Bear buys it; Mama doesn't.
  • Anxiety Dreams: In "Too Much Pressure" from the PBS version, Mama, Papa, Brother and Sister all have their own anxiety dream each on the same night about their overscheduled lives.
  • Appropriated Appellation: Too-Tall originally comes up with the nickname "Wheels" for the wheelchair-bound Harry McGill to mock him, but Harry adopts the nickname and asks everyone to call him that.
  • Artistic License – Animal Care: In "Trouble with Pets", the family covers every puppy care ground, stressing the importance of responsibility — until Lady chews up the living room. Then, Papa builds her a house and a fenced in area out in the yard, with the assumption that she'll be living out there from now on. This really isn't the best place to keep a dog, especially if you're doing it to avoid dealing with a behavioral issue. Later done away with as Lady lives in the house, though she does still have the doghouse for when the family needs to put her outside, and clearly has been better trained.
  • Aside Glance: At the end of the PBS animated version of "Double Dare", when Mama Bear asks Brother Bear if getting Sister Bear's jump rope back from Too-Tall and his gang was really as easy as simply asking him for it, he admits "Well, it wasn't really that easy," then tosses a wink at the audience regarding the hijinks he went through in the story.
  • A Weighty Aesop: Too Much Junk Food is Exactly What It Says on the Tin — all the Bears save Mama end up eating too much junk food, and it takes a visit to the doctor to Scare 'Em Straight.
  • Baby See, Baby Do: In "Sick Days", Honey says, "Bedder" as a response to Mama Bear talking about Sister Bear getting better.
  • Babysitting Episode: And The Sitter is this where Ms. Grizzle babysits Brother and Sister while their parents go off to a town meeting. The cubs are nervous about her as they think she's not very nice but learn An Aesop about how babysitters can be nice.
  • Bait-and-Switch Comment: In "Papa's Pizza", Brother and Sister Bear reveal to Mama Bear that they have both invited all of their friends over to play on Saturday. Mama, sounding troubled, says that it sounds less like just having friends over, and more like a party.
    Mama: ...which is perfectly fine with me!
  • Ballet Episode: The Big Chapter Book Gotta Dance! has Brother Bear, needing to learn how to dance in time for an upcoming school dance, joining Sister's ballet class after having initially thought it was too girly.
  • Banister Slide: In the 1980s episode "The Berenstain Bears and the Trojan Pumpkin", Brother and Sister slide down one railing on the front steps of their tree home before going to Papa's pumpkin patch to talk to him.
  • Barefoot Cartoon Animal: Most of the characters in Bear Country. Professor Actual Factual wears spats over his feet while Bigpaw goes au naturale.
  • Baseball Episode:
    • The 1983 special The Berenstain Bears Littlest Leaguer aka Play Ball.
    • The 1987 book Go Out for The Team (1987) also involves it, as Brother and Sister have been playing with their friends, and it's suggested they try out for an official Little League team.
    • In one of the Living Lights books, Brother and Sister's baseball team has a game and Brother learns a lesson about prayer.
  • Bedsheet Ghost:
    • Done in the book "The Berenstain Bears and the Ghost of the Forest" (which was also done as an episode of the 80s TV series, "Bust a Ghost"). Papa Bear decides to scare the Cub Scouts on an overnight forest camping trip by disguising as the "Ghost of the Forest" by wearing an old white sheet with two eyeholes cut in it. Scout Leader Jane overhears Papa's plan and decides to get back by crafting her own stick-and-leaves ghost face rigged with a flashlight, effectively scaring Papa and foiling his plan.
    • This is also Papa Bear's costume in "Trick or Treat" from the PBS series, with an added Jack-o'-lantern head. It actually manages to scare Brother and Sister Bear a bit... until he starts complaining that he can't see and starts bumbling around bumping into stuff.
  • Birthday Party Goes Wrong: In episode "Too Much Birthday", Sister Bear has a bad sixth birthday because she was the first one out on Musical Chairs, picked first for Spin the Bottle, didn't win anything for Pin the Tail on the Donkey, the pony she rides on gave her a bumpy ride and taking her six tries to blow out her candles, which made her friends claim she was going to have six cubs and she only wanted three. Thankfully, it comes around when she's told she hasn't opened any of her presents yet, and it was cake and ice cream time.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Brother has this for Sister Bear, so that he's prepared to beat up Tuffy up until realizing that she's a girl. He then goes to Plan B, teaching Sister how to defend herself.
    • This instinct has since expanded to most of the school, with Brother being actively famous for defending bullying victims.
  • Big Guy: Too-Tall.
  • Big "SHUT UP!":
    • Papa Bear screams "QUIEEEEEEETTTTTTTT!!!!" in Messy Room after running in to see what the commotion is when Mama begins throwing out Brother and Sister's belongings.
    • Also happens in the TV version of "The Slumber Party", done by Lizzie's babysitter (once again with a loud "QUIEEEET!").
    • Sister actually yells "Shut up, shut up, shut up!" at Brother in the 1980s cartoon adaptation of "Get In A Fight" while arguing with him. The phrase "shut up!" was actually used in the book as well.
  • Bittersweet Ending: A rare one in "The Bully"; Sister punches out Tuffy, the cub who had earlier beat her senseless, but comes to understand Tuffy's bad behavior when she makes a tearful confession of how her parents tend to treat her. Sister is visibly saddened by Tuffy's story, and while Sister is not punished for acting out of self-defense, Tuffy is assigned to see the school counselor about her behavior. Tuffy's parents are (thankfully) not notified of the incident.
  • Bland-Name Product: Brother has a handheld console called a Game Bear.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: When the kids see Miss Glitch and her group harassing Farmer Ben for growing tobacco, they are torn. On one hand they don't like smoking but also they like Farmer Ben. Officer Bruin drives up and admits that both parties have legitimate points; Miss Glitch has the right to protest, just not on Farmer Ben's property. Meanwhile Farmer Ben may be growing tobacco which is used to make cigarettes but it is a cash crop. When neither party backs down, Office Bruin threatens to arrest them for brawling and trespassing. That breaks up the party.
  • The Boxing Episode: A portion of The Berenstain Bears and the Bully is Brother Bear teaching Sister Bear to box so that she can defend herself from a bully at school. Sister is a natural at it, from what the pictures let us see.
  • A Boy, a Girl, and a Baby Family: With the addition of Honey Bear.
  • "Brave the Ride" Plot: In one episode, Brother Bear is scared to go on a roller coaster, so he takes advantage of the long queue and deliberately eats his pizza slowly.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: The ending line of the 1980s Animated Adaptation's theme:
    "You may think that this starts our show / Well, it does!"
    • To the tune of John Philip Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever", by the way.
  • Breaking the Glass Ceiling: In "The Female Fullback", Bertha Broom becomes the first girl to be on the school's football team.
  • Broken Aesop:
    • The Berenstain Bears' New Neighbours has an anti-racist aesopnote  — which really falls apart when you take into account weasels are consistently portrayed as bad guys. Racism is only bad when you do it towards pandas...? Although it should be noted Weasel McGreed and his hench-weasels were only made for the 80s cartoon and Bear Scouts chapter books, which are not canon with the main books. It's also unclear if the bears are making blanket statements about weasels in general, which would make it a Broken Aesop, or talking about this specific group of weasels, which considering their designs for Bear Country and its residents, is fair.
    • In The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Birthday, we're supposed to think Sister's birthday party goes wrong because Papa ignores Mama's advice and makes the party too big and crazy. But of all the things that go wrong, the only problem caused by the party being over-the-top is when Sister eats too many treats and then feels sick after riding the ponies and merry-go-round. The other problems (Sister losing a game, winning a game but not getting the prize because "it wouldn't be polite," getting nervous during Spin the Bottle, Cousin Freddy squirting water on her, and her friends teasing her when she fails to blow out the candles) could have happened even at a simple party. A more consistent Aesop would have been "Sometimes things go wrong at your birthday party and that's okay" than "There's such a thing as too much birthday."
  • Bruiser with a Soft Center: Too Tall has moments of this, such as fawning over a kitten.
  • Bumbling Dad: Papa Bear, though he is the voice of reason in Messy Room. The 2003 series somewhat tones this down and makes him wiser and more helpful, while still acting goofy once in a while.
  • The Bully:
    • Too-Tall Grizzly is the thuggish leader of a gang of bullies — aptly called the Too-Tall Gang — who harass Brother and Sister Bear from time to time.
    • Tuffy from "The Bully", although she ceases her behavior by the end of the episode.
  • Canon Immigrant: Raffish Ralph (later renamed Ralph Ripoff) and Weasel McGreed from the 1980s cartoon.
  • Catchphrase: "I don't know if I can stand the excitement." The 1980s cartoon version of Brother often said this in Sarcasm Mode.
  • Character Development: In the 2003 series, Brother and Too-Tall have a shared character arc. It's notable in that it encompasses the entire series, instead of being confined to a single episode. In the early episodes, Too-Tall is your basic bully and troublemaker who's very clearly jealous of Brother Bear, and Brother in return thinks Too-Tall doesn't have a personality beyond dumb, mean kid. They surprise each other though, several times, and gradually gain respect for each other. By the later episodes, Too-Tall mellows out a lot as a result of Brother's influence, and the two cubs seem to be becoming friends. Said arc plays out over "Double Dare", "Trick Or Treat", "Mighty Milton", "The Talent Show", "The Big Red Kite", "Showdown At Birder's Wood", "White Water Adventure", "Big Road Race", "Papa's Pizza" and "The Female Fullback".
  • Character Name and the Noun Phrase
  • Cheaters Never Prosper: The Big Road Race has five cars participating in the titular race. The driver in green decides to play dirty late in the race to eliminate the last large car, and thinks he's got it won as a result... but ends up losing to Little Red (Brother Bear), who was never careless or cheated throughout the race.
  • Childish Pillow Fight: Among the other shenanigans, one of these happens during the slumber party in "The Slumber Party" from the PBS version, resulting in feathers all over the floor.
  • Christmas Episode: The NBC special The Berenstain Bears' Christmas Tree
  • Clueless Aesop: See here for the 8 most awkward titles.
    • If your immediate reaction to #1's cover is "Fantastic Racism!", TV Tropes Ruined Your Life. (Or you've already been to the trope page and seen it as the page image.)
    • One of the books had an anti-TV Aesop. It was adapted into an episode of the 2003 TV series. Three guesses as to why that's hard to take seriously.
  • Comically Missing the Point: The TV version of "Too Much TV" has this little tidbit.
    Mama: (attempting to get the cubs to go out and play instead of watch TV) It's a beautiful day outside. Look at all that sunshine!
    Brother: I know. The glare is wrecking the picture. (closes the drapes)
  • Compliment Backfire: Happens in TV adaptation of The Truth:
    Brother: Come on, Sister; you like soccer and you're pretty good for a girl.
    Sister: Pretty good for a girl!? What's that supposed to mean?
  • Compressed Vice: The plot point of several books, among them: eating too much junk food, watching too much television, throwing tantrums, letting her room get too messy, lying about Mama's lamp, and forgetting their manners. It gets lampshaded in the Christmas book, where Sister feels guilty recalling some of these adventures while wondering if Santa Bear will label her as naughty.
  • Continuity Nod: Multiple:
    • During Papa's holiday monologue in The Berenstain Bears Meet Bigpaw, the melody from the closing number of The Berenstain Bears' Christmas Tree plays when Papa touches on Christmas.
    • Speaking of Christmas, during The Berenstain Bears Meet Santa Bear, Sister has flashbacks to The Berenstain Bears Get in a Fight, The Berenstain Bears and The Truth, and The Berenstain Bears and the Messy Room when she's recalling times she hasn't been good.
    • The Big Chapter Books are chock-full of these. Events that took place in previous books get referred to in later books.
  • Continuity Reboot/Alternate Continuity: The 2003 series is of a different canon from both the books and especially the 1985 series.
  • Cool Old Guy/Cool Old Lady:
    • The Week at Grandma's has Brother and Sister find this out about their grandparents.
    • And The Sitter reveals that Ms. Grizzle is more fun than Brother and Sister's first encounters with her would suggest.
  • Crying at Your Birthday Party: The cover art for the book "Too Much Birthday" shows Sister Bear crying as her guests celebrate. In the book, Sister Bear cries because her party went wrong.
  • Cyberbullying: In “Computer Trouble,” speaking toward the drawbacks of social media after Sister is shaken after receiving a (rather childish) hurtful message from someone she thought was a friend.
  • Darker and Edgier: Downplayed with the 1985 animated series. Compared to the original 1970s animated shorts and the 2003 series, this series actually had antagonists in the form of the weasels and even had more yelling and arguing among the Bear Family, which rarely happened in both the 1970s animated shorts and the 2003 series.
    • The chapter books handle more mature topics than the picture books and cartoon episodes, ranging from drugs to students bringing guns to school.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Mama, in Too Much Television. When Papa complains that he won't be able to check the weather if he can't catch the TV weather report, Mama fires back with "Try this. It's called sticking your hand out the window to see if it's raining."
  • Decided by One Vote: Subverted in the Big Chapter Book and the Female Fullback; the B-plot is Brother Bear running against Queenie McBear for school president. Queenie is quick to include the upheaval from Bertha Broom trying out for the boys football team in her campaign, turning the election into a boys vs girls affair, but there are an equal amount of boys and girls in the student body. Queenie is confident she'll win and at the end it's revealed why; Too-Tall Grizzly has a crush on her, and she was counting on his vote! However, the votes are still tied because Bertha, who doesn't care about women's lib, voted for Brother. In the end, Brother concedes to Queenie because he has too many responsibilities anyway.
  • Decon-Recon Switch: Learn About Strangers is this with Too Smart for Strangers. Papa's lecture to Sister makes her think the world is full of dangerous strangers out to get her and Mama realizes this. Later, Mama tells Sister that what Papa said was true but because it was better to be safe than paranoid.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Too-Tall becomes friends with Harry McGill, a Handicapped Badass he was taunting, after the latter beat him in wheelchair basketball. Harry also thanks him for giving him a cool nickname, "Wheels".
  • Denser and Wackier: In contrast to the more down-to-Earth 2003 cartoon, the 80s animated adaptation is far more cartoony than the original books were.
  • The Dentist Episode: In Visit the Dentist, Sister has a loose tooth, and Brother has a dentist appointment at Dr. Bearson's around the same time. Brother tells Sister that if she doesn't get her loose tooth out by the time they go to the dentist, Dr. Bearson will yank it out, frightening her. Karma catches up with Brother when it is revealed that he has a small cavity, and has to have Dr. Bearson fill it for him. Afterwards, Dr. Bearson pulls out Sister's loose tooth so she can put it under her pillow for the Tooth Fairy. This book was also adapted into an episode of the 2003 Animated Adaptation.
  • Didn't Think This Through:
    • Brother Bear after reading a scary mystery to Sister notices that she's having trouble falling asleep at night. He then makes a scary noise, which causes her to have a Freak Out and call for Mama and Papa. Afterward, she refuses to sleep with the lights off, which keeps him awake because he can't sleep after she turns on the lights. The end result is that everyone is exhausted in the morning.
    • Miss Glitch sending Queenie home for wearing a miniskirt, even though she was also wearing a full-body leotard with it. Principal Honeycomb (who wasn't aware of what happened) gets a phone call from Queenie's mother, who tells him off because Miss Glitch isn't Queenie's teacher. In addition, the miniskirt and full-body leotard was an outfit that Queenie's mother wore as a cub, and thus should be school appropriate. This ends up instigating a fashion war between the students, who are all pissed off at Miss Glitch for what she did, and a good portion of the teachers when Mr. Honeycomb has to leave on a business trip.
    • In "The School Scandal Sheet", Queenie spots Teacher Bob having dinner with a teenaged girl and assumes they're on a date, so she takes a picture of them (unbeknownest to both of them) and sneaks it in the gossip page of the underground newspaper the Newspaper Club is publishing to protest against Miss Glitch's ironclad control of the newspaper. Unfortunately, the teen turns out to be Teacher Bob's niece who's visiting him to look at colleges in the area, something Brother, the editor of the underground newspaper, knew for a fact as Mama had her over for tea a couple of days prior. Brother angrily informs her that had she not gone behind his back to put the photo in, he would have killed the story on the spot and they wouldn't have pissed off Teacher Bob and so many of the teachers (who also know the teen is his niece). Not only is Queenie horrified that she accidentally had her teacher accused of unprofessional behavior, it ultimately led to the writers of the secondary newspaper getting exposed because Brother felt so guilty he confessed everything to Sister, which led to the school authorities finding out when Sister decides to tell Mama because she's worried about what would happen if the school authorities didn't find out who the writers were sooner.
  • Disease-Prevention Aesop: In "Go to the Doctor", Brother, Sister, and Papa learn the importance of check-ups. Nailed in for Papa because he thought he didn't need them, and then got sick.
  • Disrupting The Theater: In one episode, Brother Bear is at the movies, but a tall guy in front of him, who he later calls a "giant" to his parents, blocks the view.
  • The Ditherer: In the PBS animated series, when issues are brought before the town council, the response from the person leading the meeting is always as follows: "X is of great concern to our town council and I can assure you we will reach a decision on the matter at the appropriate time..."
  • "Do It Yourself" Theme Tune: The 1980s cartoon has its theme song sung by the Bear family and a few of the supporting characters.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Harry McGill doesn't like anybody showing sympathy over him being paraplegic. It gets Deconstructed in his debut book "The Wheelchair Commando", where his hostile attitude towards the other cubs because of it (not helped by Queenie believing Disabled Means Helpless) makes it hard for those who genuinely want to befriend him to talk to him. It reaches its peak when he accuses Brother of defending him from Too-Tall's Gang simply to make himself look good, only to be promptly told by both Brother himself and several bystanders that Brother is famous throughout the school for protecting bullied cubs in general. Afterwards, he has a Jerkass Realization, apologizes to Brother, and opens up to him and Freddy, which helps improve his interactions with the other students and helps the other cubs to get to know him more.
  • Dream Episode: "The Bad Dream", in which Brother and Sister get nightmares after watching a scary show.
  • Dress Code: The Big Chapter Book And the Dress Code revolves around one; the plot starts when the annual run of new spring fashions (or "rad clothes") starts getting out of hand at Bear Country School, in part out of rebellion after Stern Teacher Miss Glitch orders Queenie McBear to go home and change due to disapproving her choice of clothing (a very short miniskirt) despite only being on hall duty and not being Queenie's teacher, and not even sending her to the principal's office first. Vice-Principal Grizzmeyer, who becomes acting principal while Principal Honeycomb is out of town on school-related business, fully supports Miss Glitch because he also disapproves of the rad clothes, and institutes a dress code specifically aimed at banning them, along with roping other adults outside the school into the movement against them. When the cubs turn to Loophole Abuse to get past the rules, he keeps updating it to try and close the loopholes, until it boils down to "Any cub who shows up in clothes I don't approve of will be sent home, no exceptions". The cubs respond by threatening to refuse to come to school unless he backs down. Finally, some other adults persuade both sides to agree to debate, which the cubs win handily via revealing the three lead adults in the anti-rad movement were no better in their youth. After the anti-rad group concedes, Principal Honeycomb reveals he's returned early and declares an end to the dress code, along with instituting casual Fridays, which satisfies the students and leads them to tone down the clothes of their own free will.
  • Duel to the Death: In the Big Chapter Book and the Giddy Grandma, Gran tells Sister the story of how, when she was younger, she used to perform a one-bear-band vaudeville act. She also recounts how Gramps (who also worked there, but not as a performer) and a clown named Roscoe both courted her, which culminated in Gramps slapping Roscoe and challenging him to a duel (which was, of course, illegal). Roscoe, as the challenged, had the right to choose the weapon... and chose pies, with someone promptly going to a nearby bakery and coming back with two banana cream pies for them to use. Despite losing the duel, Gramps came out on top in the long run, as he was physically unharmed (though his pride was somewhat wounded), and Gran decided he was the bear she wanted to marry.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Aside from Brother Bear being called Small Bear, anything that was written before The Berenstain Bears' New Baby (the first "First Time Book"). Later entries in those previous lines (e.g., Beginner Books) were written to reflect the First Time Books.note  Moreover, the Bears themselves had similar, but nonetheless different designs from the First Time Books. In fact some of the books written before Sister Bear's debut were very humorous and didn't focus on life lessons (such as the 1966 book The Bears Picnic where Mama, Papa, and Small/Brother Bear almost get run over by a plane just to find a perfect spot to have a picnic).
  • Easter Special: The Berenstain Bears' Easter Surprise.
  • Empathic Environment: In Get in a Fight, Brother and Sister suddenly have a feud midway through the book and the moment they draw a line between each other while sitting on their tree house, rain suddenly pours. It gets even worse when they end up arguing with each other and a thunderstorm suddenly precipitates, and right after Mama solves the problem and the cubs apologize to each other, the storm fades away.
  • Episode Tagline:
    • In "Go to the Doctor", Papa Bear often says, "I never get sick", but he gets sick anyway.
    • In "Get the 'Don't Hafta's", Sister Bear replies, "I don't hafta" when asked to go to the bathroom several times.
    • In the book about the environment, Papa Bear often says, "Piffle!" about his family's environmentalism.
    • In the cartoon version of "The New Neighbours", Mama Bear repeatedly tells her husband and cubs that "the best way to have a good neighbour is to be a good neighbour."
    • In one episode, both parents tell their cubs to "instead of spending today wishing it was yesterday, go out and see what today has to offer."
    • In "Too Much Car Trip", Mama Bear keeps saying, "Keep an open mind" to the point where the cubs get bored of it.
    • In "The Hiccup Cure", the opening rhyme (when eating your food remember to chew; it's not just good manners, it's healthy for you) becomes the Episode Tagline, with everyone saying it to Papa Bear.
    • In the cartoon version of "Draw It!", "X is difficult and because it's difficult, there are some things you have to learn first" becomes a repeated line and the lesson that Brother Bear learns.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Ralph Ripoff is established as a conman that constantly engages in Get-Rich-Quick Schemes. In the Big Chapter Book in the Freaky Funhouse, however, it turns out he didn't know his ringmaster friend would scam Dr. Grizzly out of funds for a hospital charity and gets angry when she tearfully explains to him. No one should steal from hospitals. He goes to confront the circus and nearly gets killed.
  • Everybody Cries: The cartoon adaptation of Too Much Pressure has Brother and Sister crying along with Mama when she breaks down from the pressure of taking everyone to their activities and their car fails to start. Subverted when the only one who doesn't cry is Papa, who, upon noticing everyone else crying, decides to cancel their plans for the day.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Everyone refers to members of the Bear family by their role in the family. Keep in mind that everyone outside the Bear family has a proper name.
    • Of note is the fact that, before Sister Bear was born (and as previously mentioned), Brother Bear was originally called Small Bear.
    • In the German translation (at least of the TV series), Brother and Sister are renamed Bastel and Suse.
    • The pattern stopped in 2000 with the introduction of Honey Bear.
    • Brother and Sister's cousin Fred is called "Cousin Fred" by everyone, even teachers.
    • Lampshaded with Papa's full name: Papa Q. Bear.
  • Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: Dinosaurs frequently pop up throughout the franchise, mainly because Brother is a dinosaur-lover. One book was even titled "Brother Bear Loves Dinosaurs".
  • Evil Laugh: In "The Bad Dream" from the 2003 series, Sleezo the Mastermind of Space on Space Grizzlies has one. When Sister and Brother Bear both start having nightmares about him, they hear it in their nightmares.
  • Evil Twin: The lead villain of the Big Chapter Book In Maniac Mansion turns out to be one of these. Squire Grizzly trusts his butler Greeves implicitly. The climax, however, reveals that Greeves has a twin brother named Arthur, who's been impersonating Greeves so he and his cohorts can make duplicates of the Squire's antique furniture, switch them out, and sell the originals for a lot of money.
  • Exact Words: In the 2003 animated series story "The Female Fullback", Betsy never told Brother, Freddy and Too Tall's football team that she would play in their big game, only that she would help them. And though they didn't realize it at the time, she did, by putting them variously through regimens of basketball, track and ballet, which provided them with needed skills for their football game.
  • Exiled to the Couch: a variation happens in the 1980s cartoon; see Hoist by His Own Petard example.
  • Exploding Closet: Inevitable in Messy Room, where Mama gets buried underneath Brother and Sister's toys.
    • Also happened in the TV special The Berenstain Bears' Christmas Tree when Papa and Brother open the closet full of decorations; at first it seems like the trope is averted but just after Mama breathes a sigh of relief, said decorations fall out and spill all over the floor.
  • Facepalm: This is Mama Bear's reaction in "The Green-Eyed Monster" from the PBS series when she explains the green-eyed monster to Sister Bear after she wants to ride Brother's bike and she just whines "But Mama, it's such a beautiful bike."
  • Family Theme Naming:
    • Too-Tall Grizzly's family includes father Two-Ton, mother Too-Too, and sister Too-Much.
    • The Bear Family as well, at least until Honey Bear was born, with Papa Bear, Mama Bear, Brother Bear (formerly Small Bear), and Sister Bear.
  • Fantastic Racism: When the panda family moves in next door. Aesops abound concerning prejudice and bias.
  • "Fawlty Towers" Plot: And The Truth has Brother and Sister try to cover up their accidental breaking of Mama's lamp with a "whopper" of a lie. However, they get the details mixed up when they try to repeat the story for Papa, and the truth comes out.
  • Feud Episode: Get In A Fight deals with Brother and Sister getting into a bitter argument with each other.
  • Feuding Families: The Big Chapter Book and the New Girl in Town features the sudden revival of an old feud between the Grizzlys and the Bears, based on the in-universe equivalent of the American Civil War. Highlights include Brother being violently chased out of Squire Grizzly's manor and the cubs at school getting into so many brawls that the teachers can't focus on anything else, including potentially injured cubs who just got in the way (like Sister's friend Lizzy who, as a Bruin, probably isn't counted on either side but clearly got knocked head over heels for being there, to her obvious fright and confusion). Fortunately, when the school stages a performance of Romeo and Juliet, with Brother Bear and Squire Grizzly's niece Bonnie in the lead roles as a pair of star-crossed lovers from two other feuding families, everyone gets the hint and things go back to normal.
  • Fictional Counterpart:
  • Fight for the Last Bite: In one episode of the show, Brother and Papa Bear are fighting over a snack that is the last one left in a bowl, and saying things such as "En garde!" and "Touche!".
  • First Pet Story: The Trouble With Pets.
  • Fleeting Demographic Rule: Interestingly averted for the 2003 TV series. Despite there being more than enough space between it and the 1985 series for a grown up demographic, the 2003 series avoids adapting any books that had already been done in the prior series.
  • F--: Downplayed, and also Played for Drama in The Trouble at School. Because Brother has put off studying all his work during sick days, he is completely unprepared for a quiz (a test in the TV version) that happens to be on the same day he returns. In both versions, he performs exceptionally poorly; the book version doesn't explicitly state any grade he makes, but the teacher writes "Very poor! Must be signed by a parent!" on it. In the TV version, his demands that Brother get it signed are only spoken out, and his grade on the test is a zero.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: The main family. Papa, the ill-tempered Bumbling Dad, is choleric. Mama, the slightly bossy Only Sane Man, is melancholic. Brother, the laid-back Nice Guy, is phlegmatic. Sister, the emotional Genki Girl, is sanguine. And Honey, the baby with little personality, is eclectic.
  • Freudian Excuse: The whole reason Tuffy was a bully in The Bully was because she got badly abused by her parents at home.
  • Friendly Tickle Torture: In "Big Bear, Small Bear" on the PBS version, when Sister Bear tells Papa that he's not that old, that there are some dinosaurs older than him, he subjects her to the "tickle-o-saurus".
  • Fun with Acronyms: The Berenstain Bears and the Dress Code has two: B.O.R.E.note  and F.R.E.E.S.note 
  • Gender-Equal Ensemble: For the longest time, the Bear family consisted of Papa Bear, Mama Bear, Brother Bear and Sister Bear. This balance was undone with the introduction of Honey Bear in 2000.
  • Genre Blindness: In-universe example. In the TV version of "Too Much TV", a crime drama show that Brother and Sister are watching has them irritated at the characters missing incredibly obvious clues.
    Brother: I knew that guy was the crook a half hour ago!
    Sister: Me too.
    Detective in show: Do you recognize this bear? (holds up an image of a person who obviously runs a hot dog stand, and was already seen in the background just a second ago)
    Brother: It's the hot dog bear!
    Woman in show: Why, is that the hot dog bear?
    Brother: Ugh! (He grabs his pillow in irritation and does a Face Palm with it)
  • "Getting Ready for Bed" Plot: In "The Bedtime Battle", Brother and Sister are reluctantly put to bed.
  • Given Name Reveal: Towards the end of The Berenstain Bear Scouts Save That Backscratcher, Gramps's real name is revealed to be Ernest when Mayor Honeypot recognizes him as an old friend of his.
  • Going Cold Turkey:
    • And Too Much TV has Papa and the cubs going cold turkey from television. Unlike other examples of this trope, it's not self-imposed; Mama strictly enforces the ban after laying it down.
    • And too much Junk Food has Papa and the cubs, again, going cold turkey, this time from junk food.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: In Forget Their Manners, the name-calling that goes on between Brother and Sister is written on the illustration. The terms used are not explicitly shown to be swear words but are still rather creative: "SILLYHEAD!" "FUZZBRAIN!" "NOODLEPUS!"
  • Go to Your Room!: In the PBSKids version of "Get the Gimmies", Papa Bear sends both Brother Bear and Sister Bear to their room after they greet their grandparents by asking them what they brought them. As they're headed up there, he also declares that they're getting no treats for a week... a month... a year. Grandpa Bear then asks him if he's having a bad day and tells a tale of when Papa Bear had the gimmies just as badly.
  • Grandfather Clause:
    • Decades into the franchise, the Bear family's regular attire has not changed, with some of it being obsolete — notably Mama Bear's polka dot house dress and matching nightcap.
    • Queenie was introduced in 1989. She still dresses like a Flashdance extra.
  • Green Aesop:
    • The 1991 book Don't Pollute (Anymore), along with its animated adaptation in the 2003 TV series.
    • The 1985 animated series has "The Coughing Catfish", dealing with water pollution (the catfish coughs due to the water being all dirty and polluted.)
    • The 1985 series's adaptation of "Too Much Birthday" has a very brief, minor one that isn't in the book version; after Papa Bear saws down a big tree and before the cubs eventually notice the annual rings on the fallen tree, Papa and the cubs get to work planting young trees.
      Papa: Well, you can't just take from Mother Nature. You have to give back, too!
  • Green-Eyed Monster: In The Green-Eyed Monster, Sister is overcome with this when she sees Brother's brand-new bicycle. That night, she has a dream where she meets up with said monster, and when she gets on the bike, it grows in size until it crashes. Toward the end, it starts to get to Papa when he notices Mr. Bruin's new car, but is quickly subdued when Sister warns him.
  • Handicapped Badass: Harry McGill, a wheelchair-bound computer genius, skilled chess player, and former wheelchair basketball player introduced in The Berenstain Bears and the Wheelchair Commando.
  • Happy Birthday to You!: The 1985 animated adaptation of "Too Much Birthday" has everyone sing to the tune of "London Bridge",
    Happy birthday, Sister Bear,
    Sister Bear, Sister Bear,
    Happy birthday Sister Bear,
    We all love you!
  • Heaven Above: When Goldie the fish dies, Papa Bear says that she went to the big castle in the sky, a metaphor for the afterlife.
  • Hiccup Hijinks: The 2003 series has the episode "The Hiccup Cure". Papa Bear gets hiccups when he eats his pancakes too fast before talking to the squire. Throughout the episode, he keeps getting hiccups when he eats his food too fast.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: When Papa breaks his promise to not attempt to get more Wild, Wild Honey in the 1980s cartoon episode "The Great Honey Pipeline" via building the titular pipeline, Brother and Sister get several of the other animals they know to not only return the honey to Queen Nectar and her hive, they use that same pipeline to send the smell of skunk spray towards Papa the next time he tries to get honey; Papa later gets forced to sleep in a tent due to smelling bad to ensure that he learned his lesson about not breaking a promise.
  • Honesty Aesop: There's the book "The Berenstain Bears and the Truth", in which Brother and Sister goof around with a soccer ball inside despite being told not to and accidentally break a lamp. They lie that a bird broke it, until they get caught because they're inconsistent on what the bird looked like.
  • Horrible Camping Trip: Too Much Vacation has the Bear family going through several mishaps during their vacation to the wilderness. They did at least get a good laugh when looking back at the photos later on.
  • Hypno Fool: In the Big Chapter Book At the Teen Rock Café, Ralph Ripoff offers to do a hypnotist's act as part of the opening of the titular café. While practicing with willing volunteers, he accidentally puts Lizzie Bruin into a trance as well, allowing her to remember events from earlier. These recovered memories allow the other cubs to, with the help of the police, take down a shoplifting ring that's been causing a lot of trouble at the mall.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Papa Bear, repeatedly. When Brother and Sister complain about not being allowed to watch TV for a week in Too Much Television (not as a punishment, but just because Mama felt the family needed a break from it), Papa lectures them about being good sports — and then finishes with "Now, if you'll excuse me, there's a sports show I want to watch." He's shocked when he learns that the week-long TV ban also applies to him, because Mama wants them to set a good example during the no-TV week.
  • Hypocrite: In the Big Chapter Book And the Dress Code, one of the teachers turns up at the Bear family's house to drum up support for a scheduled meeting for a debate about the dress code. Brother happens to be present and asks about the band concert that was previously scheduled at that time. When the teacher brushes off his concerns by claiming the debate is more important and the concert will be rescheduled, Brother storms up to his room in a fit of temper. The narration tells us Brother and the rest of the band want the concert (a school-sponsored event) to be over soon so they can move on; the hypocrisy of the teachers disrupting school events for their own desires (which they had claimed the cubs' fashion choices had been doing) so angers Brother that he goes from being a mildly annoyed but overall neutral party to a ringleader of the kids' side of the debate who is ultimately indirectly responsible for their win.
  • Hypocrite Has a Point: In Get the Gimmies, Papa Bear despairs over the increasingly bratty behavior of Brother and Sister, who keep wanting all manner of toys and trinkets. Later, his own parents gently remind him that he acted much the same way when he was a cub. Nonetheless, they understand his fear of his children becoming Spoiled Brats and help him curb their behavior.
    • In The Berenstain Bears and the School Scandal Sheet, the cubs who are working on the titular scandal sheet are clearly breaking the rules and doing things that upset and even harm the school staff but said school staff basically ignored any and all of their desires when it came to writing for the school newspaper with such actions as forcing one of Brother's agemates to review books for first-graders and write a poem with a word that's nearly impossible to rhyme and ignoring Ferdy's suggestions for the science section. The cubs only went with the unauthorized newspaper because they felt ignored, something the adults admit was wrong of them.
  • I Can't Hear You: This is used in "The Slumber Party" in the PBS series when Too Tall plays a loud boombox at Lizzie's slumber party. The babysitter tells him to turn it down, but he tells her that he can't hear her because the music's too loud.
  • I Have Brothers: In her debut book The Berenstain Bears and the Female Fullback, Bertha Broom explains that she learned football from her older brothers. Unfortunately, it takes a lot more than that before Mr. Grizzmeyer will even consider letting her on the team.
  • Illness Blanket: In "Sick Days", Sister Bear spends the second stage of her illness wrapped in a blanket watching TV.
  • In Medias Res: The fourth book, Moving Day, explained how the family moved into their tree house. The PBS animated series adapted this one as well.
  • Innocent Swearing: Happens to Sister Bear and her friend Lizzie in the 2003 episode "The Big Blooper" with the word "furball" after they watch a video owned by Lizzie's brother — ''Trouble At Big Bear High.'' In the book it's based on, the same plot occurs but Sister just uses Symbol Swearing.
    • In the Finnish dub of the 2003 series, the word Sister Bear uses in the episode "The Big Blooper" is 'pölkkypää' ('loggerhead'), which is an actual term of abuse in Finnish language but is considered pretty tame in today's standards, especially due to the wide use of more vulgar terms of abuse.
  • Insufferable Genius: Ferdie Factual, in his debut episode, at first.
  • Iris Out: Actually not the standard method for ending episodes of the 2003 series, but it is used at the end of "The Hiccup Cure" with Papa Bear after he hiccups at the Squire's party and then says that he's just kidding. It's also used with Kenny in "Big Road Race" as the race ends.
  • Ironic Birthday: In Too Much Birthday, things go wrong for Sister Bear during her sixth birthday party, such as being the first one out at Going to Jerusalem/Musical Chairs, being teased at Spin the Bottle for not wanting to kiss anyone except Brother, being unable to accept the prize for Pin the Tail on the Donkey because it's her party and it wouldn't be polite, having her new birthday blouse soaked by a friend's squirting flower, and getting motion sickness from riding the rented ponies and merry-go-round. But the last straw comes when she's initially unable to blow out any of her birthday candles and her friends tease her with saying she'll end up having six cubs when she grows up, and she begins to cry, sadly telling Mama all the mishaps that occurred to her throughout the party. But she cheers up when the others remind her she hasn't opened her presents yet, and by the end, Sister gets to learn the true importance of birthdays.
  • It's the Best Whatever, Ever!: At the beginning of "Too Much Vacation" on the PBS Kids version, the Bear family declares that their vacation will be "the best vacation ever." Throughout the episode, as things go wrong, Papa Bear's refrain becomes "We won't let (x) spoil our best vacation ever." He finally gets fed up, though, after a flood hits the cabin that they're staying in and he gets washed away into a stream, a quite rude awakening. He grumbles that they were supposed to be having fun, but it turns out that Sister and Brother were having fun and thought that he was too, showing him the pictures of his antics during the vacation. They put a smile on his face and he decides that he was looking at things all wrong, deciding that it was, indeed, the best vacation ever.
  • I Was Quite a Fashion Victim: How the kids thwart the school's new dress code; display a slide show of the adults wearing absurd '60s and '70s clothing.
  • Jealous Pet: In the book "The New Kitten", Lady the dog gets jealous of Gracie the new kitten. The vet suggests stroking Lady more to rectify this.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: In "Forget Their Manners", Papa (who has suffered most from Mama's "Politeness Plan") rightly brings up that you need to have common sense along with good manners ("If you let everybody cut in front of you at the checkout, you'll be in line forever."), and that sometimes you have to interrupt somebody. He perfectly demonstrates the latter by politely interrupting a customer at the supermarket to inform her that she has a leaking bottle in her shopping kart.
  • Kid Detective: Brother, Sister, Cousin Fred and later Lizzie Bruin form the Bear Detectives, solving mysteries from a missing pumpkin to empty jars of honey.
    • Deconstructed at the end of The Drug Free Zone. The Bear Detectives expose drug dealing in Bear Country; while the police thank them for their help, they also berate the cubs for getting involved. The cubs get warned that messing with drug dealers can be dangerous and is not like finding a missing pumpkin.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Tuffy, thanks to her Abusive Parents. She beats up Sister, taunts Brother when he refuses to fight her and throws stones at a baby bird.
  • Laborious Laziness: Both "By the Sea" and "Up and Down" on the PBS version exemplify this, with Brother/Sister and Papa respectively trying to avoid work but ending up doing about twice as much in the process until they learn their lesson.
  • Lame Comeback: Lizzie's big putdown in Trouble with Friends: "Sister's mad and I'm glad!"; Sister's response to this is the equally lame "Lizzie, Lizzie, in a tizzy!" Justified since they're about 6.
  • Lampshade Hanging: In the Too Much TV episode of the PBS series, Brother Bear comments that he could learn just as much from a nature show on "BBS" than from a book. (The name is most likely spoofing PBS with "Bear" in place of "Public", in typical Berenstain Bears fashion.)
  • Last-Second Showoff: The Big Road Race is "The Tortoise and the Hare" with four hares (one of whom is a terrible cheater). Brother Bear drives a slow red car, and the other cars are orange, yellow, green, and blue. The drivers of the yellow and orange cars each take the lead and boast about how they will win, only to get into accidents and be eliminated from the race. The driver of the green car then figures that if he beats the blue car, he will win, so he leaves tacks on the road and blows the blue car's tires. When he is almost at the finish line, he passes a fast-food restaurant and decides to order a burger. He gets his burger just in time to see that he has inadvertently given Brother enough time to pass him and win the race.
  • Licensed Game: One for the Sega Genesis, one for the Sega Pico, and one for the Game Boy Color. And a few for the PC/Mac, including a couple animated storybooks.
  • Lighter and Softer: The 2003 series. The adaption of "Get the Gimmies", along with the moral expansion, takes out the tantrum scene, for one example. In fact, as a whole the series seemed to tone down a lot of the quarreling and screaming that was commonplace in the 1985 series; this is easiest to notice with Mama, who would scream at the cubs for doing something as small as not cleaning their room, yet in the 2003 series her tone is only mildly stern following Sister and all the other girls trashing Lizzie's house in "The Slumber Party".
  • Limited Animation: All three animated incarnations, though the specials and Nelvana series hide it a little better than the '80s series.
    • Specifically, in "The Messy Room" episode, in a scene where Mama looks across her cubs messy room. Said scene is replayed, with Brother and Sister saying "Hi, Mama!", with the very same music cue.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Lampshaded when Freddie and Lizzy are borrowing Sister and Brother's clothes. The artwork shows their closets have twenty of the exact same outfit.
    • Similarly, "The Trouble with Grownups" plays with this— since everyone on the show usually only wears one thing, when Brother and Sister portray Papa and Mama, they dress up in their standard outfits, which makes it instantly recognizable who it is that they're portraying. The reverse becomes true later when Mama and Papa dress up as Sister and Brother.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Very many secondary characters.
  • Long Runner: The series has been around since The '60s.
  • Loophole Abuse: In one of the novels, the former vice principal becomes acting principal and establishes a school dress code, and the students hate both the new principal and the dress code. So they study the rules and on the very first day, decide to piss off the acting principal by doing just this, and intentionally declaring that they are not breaking any rules. "The rules say there are no blue jeans with holes allowed... Mine are green", "I didn't cut these shorts, I ripped them" and "It's not a Batbear Cape, it's a Superbear Cape." This prompts the acting principal to blow his top and put in an Obvious Rule Patch mid-day after this happens several times.
  • Lovable Alpha Bitch: Queenie, who isn't that malicious; her bad traits are that in her first appearance she excludes Sister due to being Innocently Insensitive, and she occasionally goes out with Too-Tall.
  • Magic Feather: In The Bad Dream, Sister Bear goes to the local movie house to see the romantic comedy The Magic Toeshoes, which is premised entirely on this trope. (Brother opts instead to catch the infinitely cooler Space Grizzlies!)
  • Making Room for Baby: In Moving Day, one of the reasons that the bears move from their small cave to the bigger tree house is to have space to expand their family. Sister Bear is born in the next book.
  • Mama Bear:
    • Well, that's her name, anyway...
    • Queenie's mother is upset when her daughter is sent home from school for wearing a miniskirt, since Queenie was inspired by the outfits her mother wore as a cub. She calls the principal and asks why Miss Glitch, who isn't even Queenie's teacher, was allowed to do such a thing.
  • Minsky Pickup: The 1985 cartoon's theme song has one right before the bears start singing the lyrics.
  • Mocking Sing-Song: Since two of the main protagonists in the franchise are kids, it happens...
    • In "Too Much Teasing", when Too-Tall and his gang get jealous of Brother Bear becoming the principal's special messenger at school, they constantly tease Brother with this...
      "Brother, Brother, teacher's pet,
      Now he is the principal's pet!"
    • This is how Sister calls out "Brother talked to a stranger!" when running to tell Mama and Papa in the TV version of "Learn About Strangers".
    • The TV version of "Too Much Birthday" has some of the party guests sing "Now we'll know your sweetheart!" to Sister this way when it's her turn at Spin the Bottle.
  • Mood Whiplash: Happens in the animated version of The Messy Room. Much of the episode has Mama screaming at the cubs and the cubs screaming at each other. After a long drawn out panic attack of Mama threatening to throw away all the cubs' toys, Papa Bear walks in on the situation and fusses at the cubs as Mama had been doing earlier... and then very abruptly switches to a rather calm "Now let's sit down and talk about this."
  • The Moral Substitute: Not as bad as many other examples, but still rather infamously there are Christian Berenstain Bear books. Most notably,The Berenstain Bears and the Big Question, in which they are heavily suggested to be Quaker. There is also a Berenstain Bears children's Bible. No really.
  • More Hypnotizable Than He Thinks: In the Big Chapter Book At the Teen Rock Café, Ralph Ripoff offers to do a hypnotist's act as part of the opening of the titular café. While he's practicing with willing volunteers, Ferdy Factual claims he can't be hypnotized, but is easily put into a trance, after which Ralph has him act like the bear he most admires. This gets some laughs when he starts acting like himself. Subverted with Too-Tall Grizzly, who also claims he can't be hypnotized, but appears to fall under Ralph's control easily; it soon turns out he's faking it in order to scare one of his gang who'd laughed at him earlier (Ralph, for his part, figured out Too-Tall was faking as soon as he started talking while still in his "trance", but played along).
  • The Moving Experience: The book Moving Day flashbacks to before Sister Bear was born and the Bear family lived in a cave, before deciding to move to their split-level tree house in Bear Country. When the book was adapted into a TV episode (in the PBS/Nelvana series), the story was appropriately told in flashback and book-ended with Brother and Sister being distraught that two of their friends from school will be moving away.
  • Never My Fault: In "The Blame Game", Brother and Sister were playing baseball and broke a window with a ball. Sister tries to pin the blame on Brother.... while holding a baseball bat.
  • New Baby Episode:
    • "The Birds, the Bees, and the Berenstain Bears" focuses on Sister learning that Mama Bear is pregnant, and how that stuff works, and ends with Honey Bear being born.
    • "Baby Makes Five" focuses on Sister Bear learning to accept the newborn Honey, despite her stealing the attention and making dirty diapers.
    • In "New Baby", Brother (then named Small Bear) outgrows his old bed Papa made for him when he was a baby, so the two go into the woods to collect wood to make a new, bigger bed. As Brother wonders what will happen to his old bed, Mama is revealed to be pregnant, and Papa tells him about this. When Brother and Papa return, they find Brother's old bed is gone, and has been handed down to Sister, his newborn sister.
  • Nightmare Fuel: Two in-universe examples for Brother and Sister in "The Bad Dream". The Space Grizzlies toys and movies each appear in their dreams, along with Sister's ballet movie in hers and her paper dolls in Brother's.
  • Non-Residential Residence: In the Big Chapter Book ...and the Giddy Grandma, after Gran starts practicing her incredibly noisy "One-Bear Band" act (playing several instruments at once, while on roller skates) in the attic, Gramps moves out of his house and into his tool shed for a few days.
  • Not Now, Dear: In Too Much Pressure, Papa tries to warn Mama that the spark plugs of the car need cleaning, but Mama, who's already been running herself ragged trying to keep up with the cubs' busy schedules, cuts Papa off and drives away. This later leads to the car breaking down on their busiest day yet.
  • Obsessive Hobby Episode: In "Too Much Internet", the Bears take up the Internet but spend too much time online, so they resolve to only spend an hour a day online.
  • Ocular Gushers: In "Get the Gimmies" on the PBS series, young Papa Bear cried these to get his parents to get him a toy truck he wanted, though he ended up donating it to a boy in a needy family.
  • Oh, Crap!: In The Bermuda Triangle chapter book Cool Carl King is described as with a frozen expression of terror in the last chapter as Ms. Glitch describes how the cheating ring (which Carl was responsible for) has been uncovered and the steps that have been take to thwart it.
  • Only Sane Man: This trope gets passed around a lot but frequent holders are Brother, Mama and Sister; Lizzie has also gotten it when the conflict is between Brother and Sister.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: Mama is normally the level-headed one in the family, which becomes shocking in Too Much Pressure when she breaks down in tears due to being overwhelmed with taking Brother and Sister to their activities and the car breaking down.
  • Opening Narration: The 2003 series has a character reciting the opening rhyme (in voiceover) from the book the episode is based on.
  • Operation: Jealousy: In Gotta Dance!, Bonnie Brown spreads the rumor that she invited Too-Tall Grizzly to the upcoming dance in the hopes that it will get Brother Bear jealous enough that he'd learn how to dance. That way, she could ask him instead.
  • Out-of-Context Eavesdropping: In "House of Mirrors" from the PBS version, Sister Bear overhears Lizzie's mother telling her that Sister Bear has "big ears" in warning her not to speak so loudly about the surprise she's planning for Sister. Sister Bear only hears the part about the "big ears" and takes it literally, resulting in her being down about self-image.
  • Out Sick:
    • This starts all of Brother Bear's problems in The Trouble at School: he catches a cold, misses several days of school, forgets to study while at home, then flunks a test when he goes back, and is replaced on the soccer team too.
    • In Sick Days, Sister Bear stays home from school because she's sick.
  • Overly Polite Pals: Brother and Sister become this in an effort to both keep out of trouble and annoy Mama Bear into cancelling the Politeness Plan in Forget Their Manners. It backfires because not only does Mama not get annoyed, but they wind up getting into the good manners habit and start being polite without thinking about it.
  • Parental Hypocrisy: A mild version involving a school dress code. The kids adopt obnoxious new fashions, and due to an escalating power struggle between the acting principal who keeps making new rules and the kids using Loophole Abuse, it looks like the school will be going to uniforms... until the cubs find a way to win by revealing some old sixties and seventies fashions worn by the adults leading the charge for the dress code. This is especially noticeable with Miss Glitch; the reason why the dress wars got started in the first place is because she overrode her authority and sent Queenie home for wearing a miniskirt, despite the fact that Queenie wasn't her student and didn't talk to Principal Honeycomb about it. One of the pictures shown of her as a teen is her wearing a miniskirt that's extremely short.
  • Parents as People: Papa and Mama Bear are not without their flaws. Papa can be oafish and Mama can be somewhat righteous. And both of them have been shown to lose their temper at times (e.g. Papa in Trouble with Money or Mama in The Messy Room). Also, The Trouble with Grownups is a virtual lampshading of part of this trope, although it examines the parent-child relationship from both sides of the fence.
  • Pepper Sneeze: Happens a few times during the 1980s cartoon episode "The Mansion Mystery".
  • Pet Baby Wild Animal: In one of the PBS Kids TV stories, Sister Bear adopts a baby chipmunk.
  • Playground Song: The kids, including Brother and Sister Bear, sing "Down by the Bay" in "Go to Camp" during the bus ride to camp.
  • Potty Emergency: The book "Get the Don't Haftas" has the Bear family preparing to go on a long car ride to visit Aunt Dorothy, and Mama keeps reminding Sister that using the bathroom before they leave would be a good idea, but she keeps insisting "I don't hafta." Of course, among leaving the house and starting to drive through Beartown, Sister cries out "I HAFTA!" — and Papa, Mama and Brother also have to use the bathroom as well, so they immediately turn around back to their treehouse. The final page shows Sister, apparently having finished doing her business first, asking from outside the front door, "Hey, everybody! Are we going to visit Aunt Dorothy or not?"
  • Prejudice Aesop: In the book "The New Neighbours", some panda bears move in next door. Papa Bear is prejudiced against them for not being "real bears", but then learns to accept them. The TV version of this book changes it so that they are a standard bear family like the other characters in the show, but come from a vastly different background that still sets off Papa's prejudices.
  • Produce Pelting: Kumquats are thrown at Raffish Ralph and Weasel McGreed when their plans are foiled at the end of the 1980s cartoon episode "Save the Farm".
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: The Theme Song of the 1985 series includes segments from John Philip Sousa's "The Stars and Stripes Forever" march.
  • Read the Fine Print: The Big Chapter Book In the Freaky Funhouse has the villains committing contract fraud, by tricking their victim into signing four copies. The first one donates eighty percent of the money they collect to the hospital, while the circus gets twenty percent, minus expenses. The other three copies, which she didn't read after signing the first one, had it the other way around. The culprits, fortunately, are caught when the first contract is located and used as evidence of fraud.
  • Reality Ensues: In the Big Chapter Book And the Drug-Free Zone, the cubs try to investigate who is selling drugs nearby in the town. An undercover cop, rather than appreciate their detective work, rightly tells them that it was very dangerous of them to do so and they could have been killed. They should have come to the police immediately with what they had rather than endanger themselves.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: In The Berenstain Bears Gotta Dance!, Brother ends up taking ballet. He uses what he learned from it to his advantage to dump Too-Tall Grizzly into a dumpster.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
    • Mama and Papa during "The Bad Dream" when Brother Bear wants to see the Space Grizzlies movie and Sister vetoes it because she finds the franchise scary. Papa Bear compromises; he says Brother can see Space Grizzlies with his friends, while he and Mama go to see a movie with Sister that she would like, The Magic Toeshoes. Both siblings are satisfied.
    • Mr. Honeycomb, the principal of the school Brother and Sister attend, is much more reasonable than his vice principal, "Bullhorn" Grizzmeyer.
  • Recurring Riff: In the 1985 series, a section of "The Stars and Stripes Forever" plays throughout, most notably during the opening and ending credits, as well as on some of the episode title cards.
  • Recycled Soundtrack: A scene from Learn About Strangers used an instrumental version of "Down with Mush" from The Berenstain Bears' Valentine Special. Other episodes use some of Elliot Lawrence's background music tracks from the early specials as well.
  • Red Ones Go Faster: Inverted in The Big Road Race, in which Brother drives a red car and is ridiculed by the other competitors for being extremely slow.
  • Relative Error: The Big Chapter Book And the School Scandal Sheet has classmate Queenie McBear put an unapproved article in a secondary (and unauthorized) school newspaper about Teacher Bob being seen having dinner with a pretty teenager, causing a fuss and an inquiry for unprofessional behavior. Queenie's editor-in-chief Brother Bear angrily informs her that had she not gone over his head (which ultimately led to them being exposed as the writers of the secondary newspaper), he would have killed the story on the spot — he knew full well that the girl in Queenie's photo was Bob's teenage niece, who was in town to visit him.
    Arglefumph: That doesn't seem like appropriate material to put in a kids' book...
  • Reset Button: The sixteenth Big Chapter Book, And the Showdown at Chainsaw Gap, sees Two-Ton Grizzly and his family moving out of their... unique house, made from the bodies of about four trucks combined into one building (and apparently with seat belts on the furniture), into a regular one at the end. Five books later, in And the Ghost of the Auto Graveyard, they've gone back to the old house, seat belts and all, with the justification that after so long there, they couldn't get used to living in a normal one.
  • Retro Universe: No matter what modern features may appear in the series, the family always drives a 1930s-style car. The clothing styles tend to be evocative of rural America in the early 20th century. Candlestick telephones also seem to remain in vogue, but the series flip-flops a bit on that.
  • Rhymes on a Dime: All of the early books under The Bears label, as well as all five of the animated specials.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: No Guns Allowed, in response to Columbine and other school shootings.
    • And The Sinister Smoke Ring, which featured anti-smoking protesters, Brother briefly joining Too-Tall's gang and a moose mascot that might as well just be called "Joe Camel".
  • The Runaway: Referenced in the Big Chapter Book In the Freaky Funhouse, when the cubs are stuck in the back of the funhouse truck as it's driving off, and Cousin Fred remarks he'd once dreamed of running away with the circus. "But I never dreamed the circus would run away with me!"
  • "Scooby-Doo" Hoax:
    • In The Ghost from the Forest (adapted into the 80s TV series as "Bust a Ghost"), Papa Bear, Scout Leader Jane, and Mama Bear set these up. Subverted in that none of them had malicious intent; it was just a prank by Papa Bear to scare the cubs during a camping trip, and by Scout Leader Jane and Mama Bear to get back at Papa Bear.
    • In the 80s TV episode "The Great Grizzly Comet," Bear Country is abuzz with the news of the Great Grizzly Comet, which only passes by Earth's atmosphere once every hundred years, will be visible one night. Papa Bear believes it will be a Comet of Doom, and then Little Green Bear aliens land in a flying saucer to warn them that the Great Grizzly Comet will collide with Bear Country, and as this news spreads around town, Raffish Ralph offers to buy the area while everyone evacuates the area. Brother and Sister Bear are suspicious about this (especially since Actual Factual had stated a few times there is no danger from the comet), and so they investigate and find out that the "Little Green Bears" are actually Weasel McGreed and three other henchweasels disguised in full-body alien suits (albeit with their true hands visible) flying in an inflatable saucer, in a scheme Ralph had cooked up to take advantage of the comet hype. Luckily Bigpaw is able to help Brother and Sister in foiling Ralph and the weasels' plan.
    • In The Galloping Ghost, the Bogg Brothers, a family of criminal brothers, pull one of these at Ms. Mamie's Horseriding Academy by sabotaging the place in a bid to get it shut down so Ms. Mamie can't make her mortgage payment. When Brother Bear, Sister Bear, and their friends form a group to raise money for Ms. Mamie, one of the Bogg Brothers dresses up as the ghost of Billy Beechtree in a last ditch effort to scare them away, but he and his brothers get caught. The ending reveals that they were hired by a real estate development company so they could take over the academy, tear it down, and build a shopping mall.
    • In The Haunted Lighthouse (a chapter book that was also adapted into an episode of the 2003 series), the Bear family goes on vacation to an old defunct lighthouse that's rumored to be haunted, because Papa is very interested in old service buildings. Brother and Sister notice strange things going on, including seeing what looks like the ghost of the old lighthouse keeper Captain Salt, rumored to have disappeared after the lighthouse was taken out of service due to modern technology rendering it obsolete. Their investigation takes them to the hideout of Captain Salt himself, who had been pretending to be a ghost to scare everyone away from the old lighthouse, but once he realizes Brother and Sister Bear find all of his nautical stuff cool, he is more welcoming of the Bear family and tells them his great experiences of being a lighthouse keeper, and is then given the idea to turn the lighthouse into a nautical museum so everyone can see his stuff on display and hear his stories.
  • Second Place Is for Losers: Zigzagged in the Big Chapter book And the Ghost of the Auto Graveyard. There's an auto show going on, and local tycoon Squire Grizzly has entered his four best cars (all extremely rare and well-maintained) in order to ensure that he wins all three trophies for first, second and third. At the end of the book, Papa Bear's roadster (the last car made by a well-known car company before it went out of business) manages to win third. Papa is happy with winning third given how stiff the competition was, while the Squire is envious about not winning all three trophies for the best cars in the country.
  • Serial Escalation: "The Slumber Party" starts off with the eponymous sleepover only involving Sister, Lizzie, Anna, and Millie. However, the start inviting other friends to the party initially using the excuse "What's one more?" every time. It pretty quickly escalates to the likes of "What's a hundred more?" due to how many others get invited, which leads to the party getting overcrowded and out of hand, especially when Too-Tall and his gang crash the party with their boombox.
  • Series Continuity Error: In The Galloping Ghost the Bogg Brothers are named Billy, Bert, and Bart, but in The Ripoff Queen, they are identified as Billy, Bert, and Bobby. The former book also calls Billy the youngest brother, while the latter book identifies him as the eldest.
  • She Is Not My Girlfriend: In the Big Chapter Books, Brother Bear is repeatedly teased over his relationship with recurring character Bonnie Brown, the niece of Squire Grizzly. He just as repeatedly insists that despite the Ship Tease, she isn't his girlfriend — "She's my best friend, which is so much better than a girlfriend." Sister and his other friends don't buy it.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In the "Too Much TV" episode of the 2003 series, Sister points out that the TV is playing the movie "Honey, I Shrunk The Cubs".
    • In that same episode, Brother Bear mentions something about watching nature shows on PBS, which was the channel the show aired on back then.
    • The Beary Bubbies in the book "Mad, Mad, Mad Toy Craze" are an obvious reference to Beanie Babies.
    • The in-universe franchise Space Grizzlies is Star Wars by way of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.
  • Show Stopper: In "The Talent Show" on the PBS version, Brother Bear is assigned as the talent scout for the school talent show. He finds a number of good acts, but is desperate to find his "showstopper", the big act that will bring down the house. His showstopper turns out to be Too Tall, who has a surprisingly tender and compelling singing voice.
  • Shown Their Work: For "Under the Sea", the author made sure to depict the sea life accurately and clearly shows. The blobfish is even portrayed in its natural state rather than the more well-known deformed one.
  • Show Within a Show: In "The Bad Dream" from the 2003 series, the entire Bear family sits down for Space Grizzlies, though Brother and Sister both decide to stop watching it after they start having nightmares about the show's villain character, Sleezo, Mastermind of Space.
  • Shrug Take: In the 1985 animated adaptation of "Too Much Birthday", the rest of the cubs react this way when Sister starts crying due to being overwhelmed by all the mishaps at her party.
  • Siblings in Crime: The Bogg brothers — Bert, Bart and Billy Bogg — who do all sorts of crimes together in the Big Chapter and Bear Scouts books, from shooting endangered species, deliberately polluting the river, selling drugs (and trying to frame Ralph Ripoff for the same), shoplifting and reselling of the stolen items, and sabotage. (The Living Lights book "Love Their Neighbors", based on the story of the Good Samaritan, has a rather different portrayal of the trio.)
  • Sick Episode:
    • In "Sick Days", Sister Bear gets an ambiguous disease that makes her sluggish and hoarse. Later, Mama catches it.
    • In "Go to the Doctor", Papa Bear sneezes, but denies he ever gets sick. It turns out, he has a cold. By then, he's also developed a fever and a red throat.
    • In "The Trouble at School", Brother Bear gets a cold and misses a few days of school. Even though he was able to do his homework, he didn't, so he flunked his test when he got better. Sister Bear then catches it off him.
  • Silly Prayer: In one book, Brother and Sister try to stall going to bed by saying a very long prayer asking to bless a whole lot of people.
  • Skirt over Slacks: In the Big Chapter Book And the Dress Code, Queenie wears a very, very short mini-skirt to school twice. The second time, it's over a pair of jeans that are mostly holes.
  • Sleepwalking: At the end of And the Missing Honey, it turns out that Papa's honey was "stolen" by none other than Papa himself, who walked out to the shed and ate it in his sleep.
  • Slow and Steady Wins the Race: "The Big Road Race". See Last-Second Showoff above.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Harry McGill. Surprisingly, also Too-Tall Grizzly, despite his poor grades and his reputation as a bully, and he's thrilled when he finds out Harry's good at it too, because even the other members of the school chess team aren't skilled enough to pose a real challenge to him.
  • Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome: look at Brother in The New Baby. Kayaking, snorkeling, and all sorts of activities. The New School Year is post-Honey's birth (to the point where she's walking). Brother is in 3rd grade and Sister is in 1st. No way is Brother 2 in the first book, and no way is Sister 4 in the Bear Scout books.
  • Soundtrack Lullaby: In one of the animated episodes, Raffish Ralph is meeting with Weasel McGreed about his latest plan to take over Bear Country, which involves hypnotism. Weasel demonstrates by hypnotizing Ralph to sleep, which is accompanied by a statement of "Rock-a-Bye Baby" on the saxophone, the main instrument of Ralph's Leitmotif.
  • Soup Is Medicine: In the cartoon episode "Trouble at School", when Sister catches Brother's cold, Mama Bear heats up chicken soup.
  • Species Surname: The Bear family of course, but also Dr. and Too-Tall Grizzly, the Ursus family, Queeny McBear, Lizzy Bruin, and practically every other character has a surname that is some variation of the word Bear, or a particular species thereof.
    • If not bear, "Honey" seems to be quite common.
  • Spin the Bottle: The cubs play this game in Too Much Birthday — at Sister's sixth birthday party, no less!
  • Split-Screen Phone Call: used near the middle of the 1980s cartoon episode "The Not So Buried Treasure" when Mama Bear is talking to Gran on the phone.
  • Spoiler Title: The Nelvana animated series has "Papa's Pizza" in which Brother and Sister are throwing a party, but can't figure out what to serve for food because all of their friends have different likes and dislikes. Three guesses how the problem is solved, and the first two don't count.
  • Spoonerism: Mayor Horace J. Honeypot is prone to these, including once starting a speech with "Sellow fitizens!" in Big Chapter Book #16 (And the Showdown at Chainsaw Gap).
  • Steam Never Dies: Sister and Brother Bear may eat too much modern junk food, watch too much TV and do their homework on a computer, but when the time comes to take the train to visit Aunt Tilly in All Aboard!, suddenly it's the very early 20th century all over again. The Grizzly Express comes complete with colorful steam engine, coal tender, old-looking passenger cars, and engineers wearing blue coveralls and funny hats.
  • Stock Animal Diet:
    • While the bears will eat anything else that's edible (bears are omnivores, after all), they are still especially fond of honey, berries, and fish.
    • When the panda family moves in in And the New Neighbors, they promptly plant their favorite food — bamboo — outside.
  • Stock Animal Name: In The Berenstain Bears Lose a Friend, the pet goldfish of Sister's that dies is, unsurprisingly, named Goldie. The goldfish that her parents replace it with to try to spare her feelings is named Goldie Two once Sister realizes the switcheroo.
  • Stock Beehive: Averted. Honeybees are consistently portrayed as nesting inside hollow tree trunks, just like in real life.
  • Stock Sound Effects: In the audio-book production of The Berenstain Bears and the Baby Chipmunk, the sound effect for the squealing of the chipmunk should be instantly recognizable to anyone who has ever owned a guinea pig.
  • The Stool Pigeon: A Concerned Claire version in In The Scandal Sheet. The cubs of the school newspaper club are frustrated with Miss Glitch's iron-clad control over what they can write, so they rebel with an underground paper. However it gets taken too far when Queenie McBear goes behind everyone's back and puts in an unapproved story about Teacher Bob being seen having dinner with a pretty teenager (who was actually his niece visiting him to look at colleges in the area), causing a fuss throughout town. Another article about how everybody hates Miss Glitch also caused her to leave school for the day in tears. Brother feels so guilty about it that he confesses everything to Sister. She decides to tell Mama because she thinks she could help solve the problem, who in turn informs the school authorities. This turns out to be the right action, because it helped clear Teacher Bob's name. It also allowed for the real student newspaper to reform to allow for a bit more writer freedom, and the cubs involved in the underground paper were able to learn a tough-but-fair lesson about reporter responsibility and getting the facts straight.
  • Summer Campy: The Big Chapter Book At Camp Crush sees Brother, Sister and their friends attending a summer camp run by their school's vice-principal Mervyn "Bullhorn" Grizzmeyer. The place is in desperate need of fixing up, and the campers themselves have to spend the first few days doing the work themselves, and there's a number of anonymous pranks that end up being the work of Too-Tall Grizzly and his gang (who weren't actually attending when they pulled them, they just got bored hanging around home without their "friends" and decided to go have some fun with them), but it's the "no contact between boys and girls" rule (due to Mr. Grizzmeyer's belief that they'll wind up getting a lot of silly crushes on one another and giving the camp a bad name) that really ticks off a lot of the campers. In spite of all this, they wind up having a lot of fun in the end and are looking forward to coming back; the big musical show at the annual inter-camp meet, where they proceed to show off their issues with the camp and yet how much they've wound up liking it, proves their point to Grizzmeyer and leads him to admitting he made some mistakes (including the "separate camps for boys and girls" rule) and will do better next year.
  • Supreme Chef: Mama Bear is one.
  • Swapped Roles: In "The Trouble with Grownups", Brother and Sister Bear put on a play and pretend to be their parents to show how they perceive parenting. The next day, Mama and Papa Bear return the favor by pretending to be the cubs.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: Sister towards Tuffy in "The Bully"; after having punched her in the nose in self-defense, Sister finds herself feeling sorry for Tuffy when she learns the real reason why Tuffy treated others so badly, driven to tears by fear of what her parents will do to her.
  • Take That!: The "Mad Mad Mad Toy Craze" is one big Author Tract against Beanie Babies.
  • Teasing the Substitute Teacher: In the Big Chapter Book Accept No Substitutes, Too-Tall and his gang have a habit of bugging substitute teachers. When they find that Ms. Barr is going to be around for a full week (and is supposed to be a real pushover), they decide to go a step further and break her, and even rope Brother, Cousin Fred and Barry Bruin (the former two of whom try to keep things from going too far) into helping. It backfires when they find out they've been harassing a skilled martial artist who could, if she wanted, break them.
  • Tempting Fate: Zigzagged in The Sci-fi Pizza where Ralph Ripoff invites in five pickpocket associates to pick the pockets at a fair and feels that with the size of the crowd ad only two police officers there's little chance of them getting caught. The opening of the chapter with the fair has two of the pickpockets being arrested (although the other three apparently got away).
  • Tertiary Sexual Characteristics: Sister's bow. Indeed, without their identifying articles of clothing, male and female bears are virtually identical.
    • In The Berenstain Bears Go to the Doctor, though, Brother and Sister strip down for their checkup and reveal that they are wearing matching undergarments (white tank tops with matching boxer-briefs).
  • "Test Your Strength" Game: The 1980s episode "Ring the Bell" features a "Strongest Bear" contest at a fair with a high striker. Among finding out he's going to compete in the contest, Papa Bear decides to test it out before the contest begins, but only succeeds in getting the striker to go up one third of the way. Then during the actual contest, Too-Tall's father Two-Ton Grizzly easily gets the striker to hit the bell, but when it's Papa's turn, the bees seeking revenge on Papa for stealing his honey to make his famous six-flavored honey for the fair's honey contest (which he won) all fly towards Papa in the shape of a harpoon and sting his behind, resulting in Papa hitting the striker so hard he breaks it and wins the "Strongest Bear" trophy!
  • Thanksgiving Episode:
    • "The Prize Pumpkin" in the 2003 series, adapted from the 1990 book of the same name, involves Papa Bear entering the largest pumpkin from his patch in the annual Thanksgiving pumpkin contest.
    • Predating this story is the 1980 TV special "The Berenstain Bears and the Legend of Bigpaw", which is also a Thanksgiving story.
    • The 2009 book "The Berenstain Bears Give Thanks" has sister befriend Squanto, the turkey Farmer Ben is raising for the Bears' Thanksgiving dinner. In the end, Mama and Papa agree to let her keep him as a pet and serve salmon for Thanksgiving instead.
  • Theme Tune Roll Call: Both TV adaptations do this. Though the '80s series includes a few of the supporting cast members as well.
  • This Is My Side: Done with Brother and Sister's tree house in ...Get in a Fight. Provides the trope image.
  • Title Confusion: In spite of the series title, the protagonists are not named "Berenstain". The authors are.
  • Title Theme Tune: Many of the shows started with one.
  • Too Smart for Strangers: A comparatively realistic and intelligent handling of the subject.
  • TV Telephone Etiquette: In "Slumber Party" from the PBS animated series, every time that Sister and Lizzie take another call from someone else wanting to attend Lizzie's slumber party, they wrap up the conversation with "Sure, what's one more?" and hang up.
  • Two Girls to a Team: Inverted by the Bear family after Honey's birth.
  • Undercover Cop Reveal: The climax of the Big Chapter Book And the Drug-Free Zone has the cubs learning that one of their chief suspects, whom they'd assumed was a crook on the basis of his looks alone (such as his going around in a trenchcoat), is actually a detective from a nearby city brought in to help track down the source of the drugs in their town.
  • Very Special Episode: Many of the Big Chapter Books, which deal with subjects such as theft and even drug dealing.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Raffish Ralph (also known as Ralph Ripoff in the Bear Scouts books), the Con Artist can be seen as this, much to the chagrin of the cubs.
  • Voice of the Resistance: In And the School Scandal Sheet, the school's journalism club creates an underground newspaper in protest of Miss Glitch's iron-handed control over what is printed in the normal school newspaper. Things quickly go too far, however, when Queenie prints a libelous story about a certain teacher's "indiscretion", when he was actually out to dinner with his niece.
  • Walk Into Camera Obstruction:
    • In the theme song in 1985, where a bear in purple overalls walks into the screen.
    • And the theme song in 2003, where Papa Bear is riding a unicycle, but runs into the screen.
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: "Brother" and "Sister"; lampshaded by Queenie in her introduction where she is baffled at Sister's name.
    • Hilary snidely asks Sister the same question in the PBS Kids version of "The In-Crowd". Sister has no response except an angry huff and an indignant pout.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Or, for that matter, what happened to the dog? An early book depicts them getting a pet dog who is never shown again. Granted, she appears in the 2003 cartoon a few times.
    • Same thing with Honey Bear, the baby. She is never seen or mentioned in the 2003 cartoon, despite being born in the books.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: According to the Big Chapter Book And the Ghost of the Auto Graveyard, Two-Ton Grizzly (one of the biggest, toughest bears in Bear Country) is afraid of the dark. He covers for it by claiming he has bad night vision, but Too-Tall admits the truth to Brother and Sister.
  • Wicked Weasel: In the Bear Scouts series, an underground society of Always Chaotic Evil weasels led by Weasel McGreed serve as recurring villains.
    • Averted in one book, where a weasel (a non-anthropomorphic one) is treated as part of Bear Country's local wildlife.
  • Women Are Wiser: Except for that incident in Messy Room where she lost her temper and started throwing out all the cubs' toys and Papa got to be the voice of reason, Mama is always right and Papa is always wrong. (In some of the rhyming advice books, he's not just wrong, but almost lethally stupid.)
    • Thankfully, there was another moment where, after the slumber party goes a little too out of hand, Papa mentions that maybe it was their fault too, since they didn't ask if Lizzie's parents would be home.
    • In the PBS series, he's often not nearly as bad. (See You Are Grounded for just one example.)
  • Worm in an Apple: In "The Berenstain Bears and the Trouble with Strangers", Mama Bear, who is talking to Sister Bear, compares strangers to apples, saying that some apples may look bumpy on the outside, but then cutting the bumpy apple she brought out and revealing the inside is fine. Then she brings out an apple that isn't bumpy, but has a bunch of worms inside when sliced; Sister is disgusted, and so is Brother when he enters the room. The lesson Mama is teaching here is that some strangers may be "bad apples" that look friendly on the outside but actually aren't.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Tuffy's parents apparently physically harm their daughter on a frequent basis.
    Tuffy: If the principal tells my mom and dad about this, I won't be able to sit down for a- well, a long time.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: The whole reason for the plot in The Berenstain Bears and the Bully: In the beginning Brother is all ready to personally deal with Tuffy for beating up Sister until the moment he finds out she's a girl, with his only reasoning for refusing to fight her being "...there was no way he could hit a girl. If he did, then he'd be the bully", making him resort to teaching Sister how to fight back instead.
  • Written-In Absence: The whole plot of the Big Chapter Book Accept No Substitutes is kicked off by one of these when the titular substitute teacher, Ms. Barr, takes over Teacher Bob's class for a week while he's away on his honeymoon.
  • Writing Indentation Clue: Used in the Big Chapter Book And the Bermuda Triangle, revealing that Bermuda had copied down what appears to be a phone number. It's actually the number to the in-school modem, letting someone log into the school's private network and steal information from his teacher's files.
  • You Are Grounded:
    • Sister is grounded in "The Slumber Party" by Mama Bear after things go south at Lizzie's slumber party. It's actually Papa Bear who is the voice of reason and admits that they as parents were partially to blame for not knowing just how wacky things had ended up with the slumber party (which had basically become a little bear cub girl equivalent of a bad college frat party.)
    • Brother Bear is also severely grounded by Papa in Report Card Trouble for a terrible report card, being stripped of basically everything except studying until his grades improve. Mama at first approves of this completely, only putting her foot down when the grounding threatens to get out of hand, but eventually realizes that they should have been checking his work as parents too.
  • You, Get Me Coffee: The PBS Kids version has an unusually positive example in "The Big Race". Kenny, a cub who's even younger than Sister Bear, wants to help Brother Bear, Freddy and Too Tall in making a racecar for the big race. They, however, already have things pretty much covered, but agree to let him help out, doing things that are pretty much "you get me coffee" type-of tasks. However, at no time are they ever mean to him and, in fact, treat him as a valuable member of the group. In the end, he is able to help them out when they realize that they're lacking a wheel by providing one from his prized wagon. They decide to let him be the one to drive the racecar at the race, though they pretend to draw straws for it, secretly snapping their own straws behind their backs so that Kenny was guaranteed the longest straw.

Alternative Title(s): Berenstain Bears


The Berenstain Bears

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