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Listen to Miss, sorry, Mum

Apply your organisational skills to Christmas and you'll get through it relaxed, happy and with a gold star, says Sue Cowley.

This Christmas, use your teaching skills to survive the seasonal mayhem and to ensure a stress free festive break.

First planning: organise your shopping like a lesson worthy of Ofsted. Identify your objective (get it done quickly). Have a starter (write list), middle (buy presents) and plenary (wrap them). Incorporate technology using the internet to limit exposure to Christmas crowds.

On the big day, timing is key. Your aim: get dinner on the table before too many aperitifs are consumed. Gather your resources (turkey and roasting tray) and start to delegate. Issue instructions in a firm voice: "You, peel potatoes, now" and add a deadly stare if anyone drifts off task.

Use behaviour management techniques to get the family fed. Set clear targets: "Eat five brussel sprouts" using time limits to maintain focus and say: "One more minute, just one more sprout".

Add rewards to increase motivation: "If you clear your plate you can watch TV". But don't forget sanctions: "If you decide not to eat your sprouts, unfortunately you will have to wash up."

And afterwards, as you collapse on the sofa, do a quick spot of assessment. All fed - check. All happy - check. Any marking to do - nope. Perfect: time to relax

Sue Cowley is an author, trainer and presenter. Her books include Guerilla Guide to Teaching (Continuum). For more information, visit www.suecowley.co.uk.

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