May 2014
Josie Bungert

All I really need to know I learned from TLC

You may have read or heard of the book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum, a book with lists of many life lessons that can be learned in one’s first year of school.

As essential as Kindergarten may be to our learning and development, I have discovered that a lot of the lessons I have learned have been from my beloved TV channel, “TLC “(which is appropriate, seeing as it is The Learning Channel). I probably watch this channel too much for my own good, but I believe I have learned the same lessons you learn in early childhood classes from the variety of shows on this channel. As part of the book, Fulghum has a list of 16 things you learn in Kindergarten. Here is a sampling of the lessons form this book as applied to TLC.


These are the things I learned (from TLC):

1. Share everything.

The title of the popular show “19 Kids and Counting” is enough to justify this life lesson. There are 19 kids, 1 sister-in-law, 3 grandchildren, and two parents, who are sometimes all in one house at the same time. If these people can find ways to share EVERYTHING, I think anyone can.

2. Play fair.

“My Five Wives” and “Sister Wives” are definitely two of my guilty pleasure shows on this channel. With 6 adults in one family in “My Five Wives” and 4 adults on “Sister Wives,” the families spend a lot of time coordinating schedules of the patriarch of the family and of all of the kids in the massive families (26 kids in “My Five Wives” and 19 in “Sister Wives”). It really does come down to each wife and child being fair about time and learning not to be selfish in this respect. They also make family decisions fairly, which is a great lesson to learn as well.

3. Don’t hit people.

The amount of hitting and violence that happens in “My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding” is pretty unreal. There is always drama, whether between the bride-to-be and her family or her and her fiance. No matter the drama, these grown women fight so much. It’s not even just hitting – it’s on the ground, fist-fighting. No example could be greater in teaching non-violence because it is disgusting, unclassy, and hard to watch. It’s disturbing, and makes me never want to physically fight anyone, ever.

4. Put things back where you found them.

In “Something Borrowed, Something New,” brides explore the idea of wearing their mother or grandmother’s wedding dresses. Sometimes, it doesn’t work out for the borrowed. Keeping the respect of the dress is hard sometimes, but the brides, no matter which they pick, the new dress or borrowed dress, are concerned about the family sense of the dress. And when they choose the “borrowed” dress, they are keeping the dress where they found it – within the family. Even though it’s not the exact definition of this phrase, it is a lesson I take away after every episode.

5. Clean up your own mess.

“Hoarding, Buried Alive” is sometimes difficult to watch. It’s about the physical and emotional struggles people have gone through that led them to become hoarders. In many ways, this show teaches you to clean up your own physical messes, but also take time to learn about your life, and work to get that mess cleaned up too, before it gets out of control.

6. Don’t take things that aren’t yours.

Oh “Gypsy Sisters.” Similarly to My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding, the women on this show can get brutal. A common theme in this show is women stealing other women’s men. They’re vicious, and nothing makes you see that stealing isn’t right more than watching love triangles crumble and not work out for anyone.

7. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.

“The Little Couple” is one of my favorite shows on this channel. Following a little couple through their lives of marriage, work, family illness and adopting children, this show is constantly teaching life lessons. Especially in the couple helping to teach their children how to get along, I have never seen empathy and forgiveness at work more than I have in this show.

8. Wash your hands before you eat.

“Buying Naked” is hysterical. It’s about couples who want to live in nudist neighborhoods. Needless to say, cleanliness is a HUGE topic of conversation on this show. Because they tour homes, sit at tables, and eat naked, they emphasize how clean they have to be at all times. Even though I’m not living in this lifestyle, no show has ever made me feel the immediate need to wash my hands like this one.

9. Flush.

“Extreme Cheapskates” focuses on people who do everything in their power to avoid spending any money. One of the episodes describes people who do not use toilets. I am not going to go into the specifics on this, but all I can say is, I have never been more grateful for the lifestyle that I have been blessed with after watching what some of these people put themselves and their families through.

10. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

Nothing teaches you more about weddings than “Four Weddings”, and nothing is too extravagant for the brides who attend three weddings in addition to hosting their own. However, my favorite episodes always end up being the ones where they have unique things like a cookies and milk bar. Simplicity. Nothing enhances a complicated or expensive wedding than this simple flashback to childhood, and nothing is a better small touch to a simple wedding. Even when you’re old enough to be getting married, nothing is better than a simple cookie and glass of milk.

11. Live a balanced life – learn some and drink some and draw some and paint some and sing and dance and play and work everyday some.

“Extreme Couponing” and “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” both have lessons in couponing and in doing so, taking care of the family. Both shows depict families in their typical environments, and show how to keep the balance, especially on a budget. They also show the importance of families living, playing, and spending time together, which is great.

12. Take a nap every afternoon.

“Toddlers & Tiaras.” Oh the wonders of this other guilty pleasure show. Title once again speaks for itself, in that these child stars NEED naps. They are crazy, filled with handmade “go go juice” that their mothers provide (Red Bull + Mountain Dew + sugar), and get so crabby and nasty that they need a nap. And the naps usually fix EVERYTHING! It’s amazing. I totally think that this show teaches the lesson of the importance of a good rest.

13. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.

“Say Yes to the Dress” and “Say Yes to the Dress: Bridesmaids” are my favorite shows from this television channel. There are many reasons, but one of the main reasons is because of the support that every bride gets from her family and other selected guests when she goes on the show. Planning a wedding is difficult, and, like many times in our lives, you need your best support team around. This show has further instated the value of close friends and family in me.

14. Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Stryrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.

“Breaking Amish” is a show about exactly what the title says: young Amish people leaving their community for a life in the big city, whether that be New York or Los Angeles. Nothing expresses wonder like watching these young people on their own for the first time, exploring all the parts of America that we have seen either in real life or movies since we were young. They approach everything with a child-like sense of wonder. This show has taught me not to take things for granted, and that wonder is a good thing sometimes.

15. Goldfish and hamster and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we.

“Long Island Medium” shows the life of a Medium, who lives in Long Island (yes, major trends with the titles of these shows). Learning about death wehn you’re in kindergarten like this example provides is different than what this show showcases, but this show makes you think about death and the other side in a different way, whether or not you believe in mediums or the after life. This show just provides perspective, and changes the way you think about death (at least for half an hour).

16. And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK.”

“What Not to Wear”, the beloved 10-plus-year-old show that just went off the air, helps people who don’t know how to dress how learn how to have some style. The word “look” serves many purposes in this show, one of them being for “looks” in the physical sense, but also “look” as in, “look at your life as a whole.” This show helps people reflect on not only their physical look, but also the way their lives have turned out, and often leads people to a major transformation. I think this show covers many aspects of life, in one short one-hour episode.

Maybe you love TLC as much as me and can agree with these, or maybe you’ve never flipped to this channel, but maybe these life lessons will encourage you to tune into any of these awesome programs.

Anything you would change about this list of life lessons from TLC? Tweet at me, @jbungert