Mayers Memos

Prom & Dance Guidelines for Parents & Students

Prom Guidelines For Parents

Two undisputable facts should guide parents’ actions toward Proms:

Fact #1: Young people do not know how to “do” a prom unless they are shown. So many parents don’t help with this event, they simply allow the teen’s to handle everything on their own—this is not being a good or cool parent—kids have never done this before even if they went to someone else’s prom last year.

Fact #2: It is WRONG—DANGEROUS—ILLEGAL to allow your underage children and other’s underage children to behave illegally and immorally either in your home or with your knowledge outside of your home. You will be held legally accountable! Proms, senior dances, graduations are PRACTICE at being ADULTS, not PERMISSION to be an adult.

HOT Tips:

Help with plans. Know the schedule of events-this isn’t just any date! At least talk with the date’s parents-ideally meet with them. If the kids are using a Limo, introduce yourself to the Limo driver, so they know you are involved.
Cell phones are now your best friend. You can contact your teen throughout the night-let them know you will be calling—it’s okay to do this tonight—might even set up a special ring-tone. Call rather than text so you can hear what they sound like~let the date know you are going to be doing this so it’s expected.

What to do for your teen:

• Don’t just take pictures. Help with the event. Eagerly help with flowers, tux, and restaurant reservations. This has the great side-effect of including you in on what’s happening.
• Talk to your teen before the event. Tell positive stories about your time. It’s never too late for this! Your stories should be real and not meant to impress them. Your aim is to teach and share.
• Don’t try and be a COOL PARENT. By this time you either are one or not. Being cool is not obtained by letting your child and their friends drink or act sexual. (How sad is your life if you have to strain to get this acclaim from your teen and their friends–Grow Up.)
• Talk with the other parents involved. And certainly with the date’s parents. Even if it is to say hello and let them know you exist. Share your plans and these tips.
• Help with the planning. Sure that’s time out of your life and work, but again, if you’re involved then you know what’s going on and you’re more in control. Help arrange ‘after Prom’ events.
• HAVE CONTROL OVER THE EVENT. After all, you are probably paying for it, so you have a right to say how your money is spent.
• SET RULES—IF APPROPRIATE. If your teen has been a “knucklehead” all year (or since 12) then all of the sudden they are not waking up boy/girl scouts on Prom day. If you can’t trust them—then don’t— and set a curfew and other rules. Give only a set amount of money or don’t give out credit cards to those teens that haven’t deserved it. Conversely, be generous if they have earned it! This is a great time to reward them for good behavior.
• Do not support negative behaviors: Hotels, drinking/drugs, sexual acting out. Remember parents are now being held legally (criminally) responsible.
• WATCH YOUR MOUTH! Talk positively—don’t tease or be sarcastic (Dads!)—no put downs of the date, the event, the school, etc. This should be a fun, memorable event, not a stage for you to look good or be a comedian. It’s your child’s event.

This should be a fun, memorable event for parents as much as for teens!

Presented by: Dr. John E. Mayer. “National acclaim for helping teens and families” more at:

Prom Guidelines for Teens


You have one chance at this—don’t blow it!

Drinking and drugs blur and may erase the memories you will have from this great event.

How sad is it if you feel like you have to GET HIGH to have fun at THIS event. You’re all dressed up, spent a ton of money, looking awesome, have a great date, this is all you should need to feel good. If not, you’re in trouble in life or, as your friends may say, you’re a loser!

Let your parents have fun too!

Sorry, this night is exciting and memories for them too. Put yourself in their shoes. They are proud of you and want to show you off. Relax, let them fuss a bit and act silly. It’s no reflection on you.

Establish Parent Rules by talking to them beforehand. They won’t know something is embarrassing to you unless you tell them. Example: “Dad, only 50 pictures, pleeee…ase!”

You will have fewer hassles from your parents if you: “Let them into the planning” and let them know what’s going on. My golden rule: Keep your parents off your back. You do this by including them. They will also be more generous.

Be in Control!

Don’t let others ruin YOUR and your date’s night.
Young ladies: You don’t OWE your date physical favors because he has spent a lot of money, showed you a lot of attention, blah, blah, blah…
Young Men: A real man makes no such demands on a woman. This is not the goal of the night.
Don’t be pushed into anything. (Even by your date!) This is your night. It is not your responsibility to entertain your friends with illegal or immoral behavior. This is your night!

Be Smart!

You know what is right and wrong—don’t make a decision that can ruin your life.

Remember this is a school event, even if off school grounds, your actions could spoil graduation and/or lead to other consequences from school. Not to mention from the law and/or physical harm. Arrests, car accidents, STD’s, broken bones and broken minds don’t disappear the next morning.

Historically, the Prom was a celebration that you have become an adult. Act like it. My golden rule #2:
Act like an adult-get treated like an adult.
Act like a child-get treated like a child.
Have the most wonderful time of your life!

Mayer’s Memo Vol.25 No. 5

The Newtown Tragedy—What to tell the kids
(This applies to young people age 5 thru 18)

Don’t Ignore the Incident
Not mentioning this national tragedy implies a message to them that you are afraid of it-therefore they are unsafe. I suggest a simple statement in the daily announcements stating your sympathy, ask for a moment of silence or if a religious based school, lead a prayer.

All Staff~~Don’t Spin Theories, Speculate or State Anything that isn’t FACT.
It is Ok to talk about this in the classrooms or your home, but instruct your staff to stick only to facts you may know. (Distribute this Memo to all of your staff.) Theories, speculations and exaggerations stir up emotions and lead to wild rumors that will spread fear, even in places far away from the incident. Safety and respect from young people comes more from saying, “I don’t have the facts on that.” than trying to be a pseudo expert on the tragedy.

Don’t Flood Your School with Outside Professionals~Counselors~Therapists, etc.
Unless you are in the immediate area of the incident, bringing in outside counselor teams stirs up more hysteria than calm. Your own counselors, faculty and staff are the most important agents of help. The only utility to ever bring in outside counselors, crisis teams, is when the number of students to attend to is so overwhelming that your staff can’t handle the numbers. Keeping all help coming from your school’s staff is the most therapeutic message of safety and calm that you can provide for your school. Keeping resources for the students internal is a strong message that this school is in control and safe, you can handle your own problems. This is a message of safety to the kids. If you staff needs supervision on how to conduct themselves, let outside professionals be advisors to your staff, but the faces your students should see should be the people they live and work with everyday. There are no better helpers. (I am also here to advise you and your staff. My email/phone is on this Memo.)

Define Terms that Kids will Hear in the Media
Young people will be hearing terms thrown around in the media such as Psychopathic, Asperger’s, Autism, Dissociative Disorder, Sociopathic, etc. You can help kids by explaining these terms and again not speculating or stating anything but the facts. There are students in you schools that have been labeled with these terms it can be devastating to be compared to a murderer.

Keep up with Normal School and Home Activities
Departing from normal activities shouts that there is something wrong = unsafe.

Make Sure You Announce that Your Counseling Office is Available to Students
Students should be allowed to visit the counseling offices when they need, but be patient. Young people defend themselves from pain and anxiety by our old friend~Denial~and that’s Ok. If your student body doesn’t talk about this, don’t increase the visits to the counselors, don’t press them to talk and face fears. Poorly trained, inexperienced advisors will try to tell you that kids “need to talk about this.” That is advice is wrong as long as you are doing all of the above.

Need Advice
Need advice contact me. I’ll help direct your efforts as you face the kids.

Pass this Memo along to Parents, it not only applies, but lets them know you are prepared.

Mayer’s Memo Vol.25 No.3

 I’m Not Nagging But…There’s More to say Here.

   Last Memo I took up the gauntlet about the age-old issue of Nagging. I attempted to outline why this common household and classroom behavior just doesn’t work. Now, let me put some more teeth into the discussion.

Nagging begins with three fundamental false assumptions by adults: 1- The child/teen/young person is going to act responsibly. 2- The young person is going to act responsibly on your time schedule. 3- The young person is going to perform this action exactly how you would. 97.532% of the time. None of these assumptions will prove true and when they don’t…that’s when the nagging begins.

That brings us to Step 1 in our anti-nagging rehab: Eliminate your expectations.

Explaining Step 1 leads to rehab Step 2: Young people need clear, specific, and supervised rules. You can use the terms, ‘structure’ or even ‘chores’ interchangeably with ‘rules.’ Don’t leave performance up to “expectations” you may have for your child or your household. (**See note below.) Step 3: Your rules always need consequences attached and these consequences are for compliance with the rules/structure and for lack of compliance. Consequence for compliance = reward and consequence for non-compliance = punishment. Rehab Step 4: Shorten your communications about rules. Nagging easily becomes a habit in most people and obtains a life of its own long after the need has vanished. This bad habit is the cause of tremendous relationship irritation and defiance. If you are practicing steps 1 thru 3, then practice keeping your words to a minimum about rules. You have made them clear, they are specific, and you are supervising the performance of the rules. Words are not needed. BTW, this leaves your words between you and the young person to be about more important things such as common interests, current events, upcoming needs, what’s for dinner and the weather. (If you live in Iowa.)  Rehab Step 5: Parenting/Educating young people is frustrating. Nagging Words are often just you expressing frustration. Instead of planting these words on the young person (**) contact your Nagging Rehab Sponsor—which could be your spouse, a fellow parent, a fellow teacher, a co-worker, boss, etc. Discharge those words on them until they exclaim: “Call someone else to Bit…h to!” Then find a new sponsor.

So, how do we know you have successfully completed your nagging rehab? Easy, the young person (**) performs the duties/rules to satisfaction with less and less direct supervision by you. And voila’ this is a clear sign they are maturing. A side benefit!

Final note: Another cause of the Nagging Fight is that the young person (**) will beg for leniency on the time when they will perform the duty. You know what? I think that is Ok as long as they then follow-through with the duty at the time they negotiated. Keep in mind; as in rehab Step #1 above, your agenda/expectation is not their agenda. Halo level 6 is more important to them than the smelly fish in the garbage. Understand this and eliminate the fights. Remember from last Memo:

                                  YELLING IS A SIGN YOU’VE ALREADY LOST

**FYI all of these tips work for spouses, employees and co-workers as well as young people.




















Mayer’s Memo Vol.25 No.4

Holiday Stories

When we help young people our results are often not immediately seen.
In the last few weeks a number of young people contacted me that I had seen years earlier. Here’s three examples of the six cases that are returning for help.

I saw Derek* when he was a freshman in high school. A tough, angry boy who was failing in every subject. I met with him several times over the course of his first semester trying to help him and understand what was keeping him from at least trying in school. I knew something emotional was underneath his failing performance, but he wasn’t going to let me inside his head no matter what I did. Realizing that fact, I made the goal of our meetings to create a supportive and welcoming place for him to feel safe to possibly share in the future what was troubling him. Derek failed out of school and because of that his parents saw no need for him to continue seeing me, even though our meetings were infrequent. (Because of his lack of sharing and to make him feel not pressured I spread our appointments out.) Dial up to 2012. I received a call from Derek himself, now a senior in high school, to make an appointment. At that appointment he flooded me with feelings and facts on why he was hurting and why he had closed off the world. It was serious traumatic incidents inflicted upon him since childhood and now he wanted to “fix things.” He is coming in regularly and works hard in each session to purge himself of these demons. It’s important for young people to take ownership of the help you offer.

Tina* is now a young woman of 22. I initially saw her for a substance abuse evaluation mandated by her high school. I recommended her to continue with substance abuse treatment. She and her parents refused any further help at that time. Now an adult, she admits to a bad drinking problem and contacted me to conduct a re-evaluation and to get advice on where to go for help. She refused to see any professional but me. She had to be ready to get help and again take ownership of her problems.

James* was a severely depressed, angry young man of 16. He saw me for many sessions to help him with the depression stemming from a verbally abusive and neglectful father. James fought with me continually throughout his therapy with me. When I would suggest coping mechanisms to help his feelings, he would do them but yell at me, “This won’t help! I need something stronger!” He found relief from his depression while seeing me, but abruptly ended his sessions in a huff again, yelling, “This isn’t working, this isn’t working.” Yet, his grades were greatly improved, school reported he was very engaged with friends, often seen laughing and playful. Clearly, the depression was better. Was he done with therapy, no, but again, I didn’t pressure him to continue since he was telling me he didn’t want my help. As I write this, late last night I saw James for an appointment after not seeing him for 2 years. He had his mother call me because he is feeling the pressures of senior year of high school and college choices, etc. He came in my office as a smiling, confident young man. We had a great meeting and he left relieved and with tools to cope with his pressures. Sometimes the way teens communicate with us is not socially appropriate like James’ hostile nature when I first saw him, remember they are not finished products~don’t match their hostility with yours.
*No names used here are real names.

Mayer’s Memo Vol.25 No.2

 To Nag or Not to Nag, That is the Question

Should Teachers/parents Repeat needs to kids over and over?


The word ‘nag’ is derived from the Scandinavian word ‘nagga’ which translates in English as, ‘to gnaw.’ (Wikipedia entry) Many adults gnaw at young people unconsciously but most kids feel the gnawing immediately. Nagging a young person  results in: destroyed communication; ruins relationships; leads to yelling and arguments; and plain just doesn’t work to get young people to obey.


The plain and simple of it is that nagging just doesn’t have any power. A common scenario in the home is the parent yelling from two rooms away for the child to do something, the parent returns to whatever they were engaged in, then later repeats the yelling louder and more aggressive because the child didn’t obey. This cycle is repeated until the parent loses control and physically confronts the child. Then the proverbial ‘all hell breaks loose.”


In the classroom, the scene is similar. A teacher raises their voice at a student with a command to stop a behavior. The teacher turns their attention to something else (Like that pesky lesson plan for the other 28 students that always gets in the way of good classroom discipline techniques.) returns their attention to the recalcitrant student and yells/nags over again and we are off the races like the household example.


Here’s the problem in both examples: the flaw is found in the basic principle of reinforcement. The adult nagging has no real incentive value for the young person. The child knows that the nag (yell/threats) will be repeated over and over until the adult finally ‘gets in the child’s/student’s face’ and with the adult’s physical presence demands the corrective behavior to be performed. So, the child wins. They have delayed their obedience to the adult command, continued their activity (which is their priority) until they absolutely have to obey. In the mean time, the adult has turned 6 shades of red, raised their blood pressure and wasted a great deal of time. In the mean time #2, the child has trained the adult that this is going to be the future of their relationship together.


So, what do we do different to get better results? I advise to completely reverse the typical strategy. If you want a young person (any age) to obey a command, you stop what you are doing, get directly in the physical space of the child, do not become upset, and LEAD the child into the desired behavior. Sure, this interrupts what you were doing, but review the examples above. The few moments out of your time to do this first saves you 10 x’s the time that the nagging cost you and with less aggravation to you!

























Better, Easier Test Taking and Retention

Right in Time for Finals

As we approach yet another final exam season I want to pass on some research on the best techniques for students to learn and study for a test. Students in a study published last January in the journal Science performed 50% better on tests taken one week later after they read the assigned materials and then immediately spent 20 minutes writing down what they recalled from their reading.


Detentions & Suspensions

Detentions & Suspensions

(This issue’s topic, taken from the response to our survey:)

The most popular topic suggested the parents on the philosophy and rule structure from the survey we did on these Memos last of the school. Have the student’s counselor stop spring was to discuss my thoughts on in and work with the parent on academic and DETENTIONS & SUSPENSIONS.

Behavioral problems.

I would like us to consider a few facts: I have always found that when you involve and to be honest, inconvenience, the parents, most

  • Research shows that the vast of the student offenders show remarkable majority of students who serve progress. Detentions and/or suspensions are repeat offenders.
  • Home suspensions often punish 2- Give students real consequences. parents more than the student. For every detention, no matter the infraction
  • Monetary fines also punish always remove the student from the parents more than students. scene/class of the offense. They should be
  • The typical after school detention sent the student to the Dean’s office or does not achieve remediation of Student Services immediately. behavior. It just detains. Teacher should send student away with

Now consider a few solutions: an extra homework assignment or a

‘make-up’ assignment(s) the student missed

1- Always get parents involved in in the past. May want to put this step

detentions and suspensions right on your suspension/detention slip.


Student returns to that class only after

Student’s 1st and 2nd detention = passing a test on the subject matter of

student must call parent immediately those class hours they missed.

from the dean’s office. The Dean and

a counselor also talk with the parent. Eliminate completely any home detention

or suspension. Home suspensions just

3rd offense = parent must come to reward the negative behavior.

a 7:15 AM meeting the next morning.

Levy a fine on the student. Make it the

4th offense and beyond = the parent pro-rated amount of the hourly salary

must show up at school and sit with of the staff member monitoring the in-

their child while they serve the in-school school suspension/detention.

suspension or detention. No matter how —Summary—

many class periods this is. 1st & 2nd offense = remove student–

parent call–make-up work + quiz

Use this time to instruct the student and 3rd offense & beyond = remove longer per

seriousness of the offense—all of the 1st &

2nd conditions—more make-up work/study



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