Our expert says:
You don't mention their ages, but if they are old enough to understand and to be capable of both avoiding the making of messes and to be able to tidy up after themselves, you're making entirely reasonable demands on them. Sit down calml;y wioth them ( between crises !) and draw up a list of rules and expectations, and apply these firmly and consistently. Failure to keep to the rules ( focus only omn important things, without being picky ) should have consequences like losing a privilege for a set period of time ; and keeping the rules and keeping things tidy ( as well as unexpected extra help !) should lead to maybe stars on a chart such that after X number of stars have been earned, they can have a treat they value.
Maria makes the typically wise point that part of this may be their desire to attract your attention. This can work with the system I described above --- one of the rewards easily earnable by tidyness, can be some special one-on-one time with you and your special attention for 30 minutes or so ; and make it clear that breaking the rules will lead to a withddrawal of your attention. As Anonymous points out, rewards are more powerful than sanctions, and praise for doing even part of what you want encourages them to do more of that, and is more effective than any amount of nagging.
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