January 09, 2008 09:20 PM by Lisa Stauber
Supernanny ventures into the desert, visiting the Schumacher family in Las Vegas. Teri and Brian are parents to three spoiled children: Jessica, 14, seems to care only about the things money can buy. Rarely lifting a finger, she thinks the family lives in a dump. Alexi, 11, is a kid who is wired to the max. She spends hours on the internet pretending to be a teenager and racks up 1200 minutes a month on the cell phone. Son Dylan, 7, is prone to angry outbursts and constantly breaks thing. “He needs a maintenance man to follow him around and fix what he destroys,” Brian observes.
Teri and Brian have a big problem. They don’t know how to say “no”. Supernanny Jo Frost is on her way to teach Mom and Dad how to set limits, but can she calm Dylan’s aggression, cut Alexi free from technology, and make Jessica thankful for her cushy life?
Observation begins with Mom going off to work while Dad plays short order cook. The children order him about the kitchen as though they are in a restaurant, and Dad complies with every request, even as he complains constantly about being unappreciated.
The conversation turns to the topic of the Internet, and Brian is surprised to find out that daughter Alexi is chatting with older boys. He gives her a stern lecture, but when Teri comes home, he dumps the problem in her lap before heading off to his shift. Teri is shocked by what she sees on her daughter’s site, but doesn’t take any action.
“My parents are completely clueless of the computer,” Alexi tells the camera smugly. Supernanny Jo is quick to remind us that research shows that one in five children on the Internet are approached by pedophiles. She is determined to give Teri and Brian the skills and confidence they need to set limits and keep their kids safe.
Later, as Dylan spits on Mom and calls her names, she simply ignores the behavior. Jessica also tells her parents off, lamenting their lack of a mansion. “I blame you guys because you didn’t get a college education,” she snaps at her mother. “I just want money.” Again, Mom allows the behavior to continue. Teri’s afraid that if she says no, the children won’t speak to her anymore. Given Dylan’s salty language, that might not be a bad thing!
The Parents Meeting is straightforward. Jo really only has one piece of advice for the Schumachers: Just Say No.
“You have set no limitations. What character traits do they have?” Supernanny congratulates them on the sacrifices made in order to keep the kids out of daycare, but sternly tells Teri, “The computer has become a babysitter.”
Teri and Brian decide it’s time the kids pulled their own weight, and for once the kids don’t argue or sass back. They jump right in, and at Jo’s suggestion, write a list of chores they think they can handle on their own.
Later, Teri and Brian decide to move the computer into the main living space, near the kitchen. The transition is a hard one, but the kids eventually learn Mom means business. A strict limit is set for TV and computer time, and suddenly the kids are playing together again.
Jo has a plan for Dylan as well. “He’s frustrated and incredibly bored,” she observes. “He gets angry and then doesn’t know what to do.”
A safe place to channel his energy is quickly found at a martial arts studio, and Dylan blossoms under the teachings of professional fighters. The instructors caution him that punching is only for the gym, never at home, and Dylan agrees. “Someone might get hurt,” he tells his teacher. Supernanny is right again. A focused, structured sport is just what the boy needs.
Jo has another surprise for the family. They help the local Habitat for Humanity crew build a house, and Alexi is quickly brought to tears of compassion. Jessica puts on a tough face, but later tells Jo that she has realized how fortunate she is. The kids are starting to develop positive character traits, but Supernanny has one more idea to keep them on the right track.
Teri and Brian are asked to choose words to describe their children. After tearing up negative cards, they begin to focus on the kids’ good qualities, posting stickers that say “creative” and “organized” on their surprised girls.
The Schumachers are glad Jo swooped in and showed them that being a parent means setting boundaries. The kids didn’t stop loving their parents, but they did stop the attitude. Supernanny has given them new labels, new behaviors, and a new outlook on life. Jo Frost rescues another family from themselves, and leaves the desert a warmer, happier place in the process.
Photo copyright 2007 ABC, Inc. / Bob D’Amico