For the first time, Jo visits a family in Nebraska with deaf parents named Dorothy (44) & Kip Baulisch (44) who have four daughters: 18-year-old Melissa, 8-year-old Jessica, 7-year-old Jennifer and 5-year-old Kristin, who are all hearing. Their three youngest daughters constantly fight with each other, disrespect their parents and take advantage of their parents' disability to do whatever they want. They've gotten so out of control, the parents have basically given up on discipline.
While Jessica does know some American Sign Language, it's not fluent enough to communicate with her parents. However, Jennifer and Kristin don't know ASL. As a result, Dorothy and Kip have given up on trying to teach them. Which leaves communication in the house to be next to impossible with Dorothy and Kip being unable to understand what their kids are saying and vice versa. And bedtime is a nightmare. With bedtime starting at 9 o'clock, bedtime is incredibly late for the girls. To make matters worse, Jessica, Jennifer, and Kristin don't go to bed or stay in their own rooms and drive their parents to the brink of exhaustion at night.
Meanwhile, thanks to a lack of communication between the youngest children and the parents, the parents force teen daughter Melissa (who is fluent in ASL) to interpret for the girls and act like a hearing parent. However, the pressure and responsibility is too much for her, feels that her parents (especially her stepdad Kip) rely on her too much, and thinks they should take responsibility instead of her. This has lead to a very strained relationship with Kip because he constantly treats Melissa like a backup parent instead of his daughter. When Jo suggests that Melissa should talk to her parents, she gets so upset during the conversation, she storms out of the house. Can Jo help this family finally understand each other? And can Melissa finally be treated as the daughter and not the mother?
After watching the submission video, Jo begins to observe how the girls take full advantage of their deaf parents. When Dorothy asks her daughters to pick up their shoes, they ignore her and as she tries to follow them, the girls speak behind her back right underneath her nose. Because she is deaf, Dorothy can't understand what her girls are saying. Later, Dorothy tries to ask Kristin if she wants to eat lunch (in sign language), but Kristin can't understand what her mother is saying and Jo discovers that communication is next to impossible for the younger girls. Meanwhile, teen daughter Melissa (who is fluent in sign) serves as an interpreter for her parents and sisters 24/7 and acts like a hearing parent to the girls. Jo talks to Melissa, and feels that it's a shame the girls don't listen to Dorothy but they will listen to her. Melissa then has a tearful conversation of why being a third parent is too much responsibility for her, has no time to be a teenager, and feels that her parents don't help her, understand her and take advantage of her, especially Kip. Jo then talks to Kip and finds out that he does want a relationship with Melissa, but discovers that it is currently strained. Also, Jo finds out that the girls disrespect and can't understand Kip just like they disrespect and can't understand Dorothy. Jo knows that this sort of situation is common since over 90% of deaf parents have children who can hear. At dinner, Kristin decided she didn't want green beans on her plate and thanks to a lack of understanding each other, it got so out of control until Dorothy put Kristin in a time out. When Melissa came home from work, she immediately overrode her mom's decision to put Kristin in time out. Meanwhile, bed time is at nine o'clock (which is incredibly late for girls their age) and the girls are constantly up and down the hallway getting their parents attention and time. The parents start to give up, and Dorothy is driven to tears.
The next day, Jo has a frank conversation with the parents at the meeting. The most important was communication, but the parents give excuses for answers claiming that teaching them ASL would be a waste of time since they don't want to listen. Jo heeds that teaching the youngest girls ASL is mandatory since communication has broken down so much and they need to be able to understand each other. She then addresses how their children's behavior is disrespectful, how they are growing up to think it is okay to treat their parents that way, how they have no expectations, no rules and how they force Melissa to act as a third parent. Dorothy tries to justify this by claiming that being deaf makes her less of a parent because the girls listen to Melissa (who is hearing) and Kip constantly wants her help to take care of the kids. But Jo doesn't take Dorothy's excuse and claims that she is not any less of a parent because she is deaf. Jo also states that Melissa shouldn't have to help take care of the kids. She then discusses how Melissa has helped enough and is meant to be the oldest daughter and not the mother. Also, she goes over how bedtime is ridiculous and how they need to be firmer with a routine.
When teaching begins Jo goes over house rules, tells the girls about learning ASL and the girls immediately latch on to it. Soon after, Melissa tries to talk to her parents about her life and how they never help her, but Dorothy disagrees and claims that she has helped her with graduation and other stuff before. In addition, Dorothy states that when she wanted to take Melissa on vacation, Melissa said no. However, Melissa doesn't believe it and gets so angry that her parents always talk and never do, and explains that every time she wants to do something she wants to do, such as going out shopping, Kip won't let them or every time she's at work her family goes out to eat and leaves her out. Eventually thanks to her mom making excuses, and Kip in the room, Melissa's anger gets to her and she swears at her parents before she storms out of the house. When she comes back in, Melissa talks to her mom only. Then she talks about how she feels that she is only asked for help when she has to act as a third parent and a maid of some sort. As a result, Dorothy finally understands her daughter. Later, Melissa talks to Kip about why he can't give up on being a dad, and things get resolved for now. At bedtime Jo gives the parents TV monitors to see their children and they put the new routine to the test, it works and the girls are sleeping within an hour.
A few days later when Jo sees the DVD, she notices that the girls are learning ASL very well, their behavior has improved, and bedtime is much better.
However, when Dorothy and Kip plan to go on a cruise for the deaf with no kids, Melissa becomes angry and tells them that they are not going anywhere. Because the last time her parents went on a cruise they left Melissa to be the parent of three for an entire week and a half when she was only 17 and the pressure was too much for her since she had a difficult time trying to go to school and work while watching over the girls. Dorothy tries to justify that other relatives watched over the kids but Jo assures that more trust needed to be built between Melissa and her parents. In the end, Kip realizes his mistake, apologizes and promises never to treat Melissa like a third parent ever again.
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Supernanny was ranked 8 in the ratings with 4,961,000 views at the time of this episode's broadcast.
- Deaf Couple to Appear on ABC’s SuperNanny - Deaf Network, 9/29/2008.
- Folks flock to 'SuperNanny' tryout - Lincoln Journal Star, 1/26/2008 - The article has a photo of Melissa, Kristin and Jennifer at the tryout.
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