Oh man, I really empathize with what you're going through. My 10 year old son is exactly like this and it has been so difficult. He balks at doing any work and cries, complains, acts out etc. For us, it led to a diagnosis - ADHD and anxiety. He is so smart that it took a long time to piece together why he is struggling. I totally get why you don't want to do less - it feels like rewarding bad behavior. I did realize that because his brother is on the autism spectrum, I may have inadvertently expected a lot from him - to be independent too soon so that I could attend to his brother's needs. We've had a huge shift in our house and I am trying to balance my focus as fairly as possible. He misses out on a lot of my attention because his brother has high needs, so I try to offer him a lot of support, especially when the behaviors come out. This takes SO much patience and we've had some tough moments, so I'm right there with you. Here are some things that have helped:
-I started planning the school year by asking him what he wants to learn about. I had him make a list. He got to pick several things (nature study, computer science, physics, Latin) and I got to pick a few (literature, some history, and math). We probably won't be getting to all of these things, but since most of his interests are science based, I'm going to do unit studies of the things he's said he's interested in.
-We made him his own space with a desk, chair, and one of these shelves from WalMart. His work is all in one place and organized - he has his own pencil case with all his supplies and his brother is not allowed to use them. I look over his work at the end of the day and make sure that he has the books/papers he needs to do his assignments.
-I type to do lists for him that he can check off. This takes a lot of time, but helps so much. He can see when he will be done and wants to do it so that he can get his screen time. It also helps him see that there isn't too much on any given day. Here is an example from last year.
-We started using Teaching Textbooks, which appeals to him because he can use the computer and he is also getting feedback from the program itself rather than from me.
-We got nature study portfolios. - They're open ended enough that I can tailor his lessons to how he is doing that week
-I started using a timer for a lot of things
- I made "life skills" a part of his school so that 2-3 days a week he has to work with me on contributing to the household- cooking, laundry, repairs- the trick is that I have to do it with him
- He takes fish oil every day
-He spends 20 minutes on the treadmill and 15-30 minutes doing chores in the morning. This helps with focus a LOT
-Screen time depends on completing school work. Allowance depends on completing chores.
-This sounds a little weird, but I got him a Bop-it and a Simon says game. He loves them and they really seem to help with his concentration
-I play calming music throughout the day
- I don't know if you're religious or not, but we have been praying more together
-I got a workbook on Executive Functioning for Teens. He and I are going to work through it together. So far, it looks appropriate for younger children. EF issues are very hard to detect, but they often include things like messy handwriting, disorganized thinking, etc. These can really affect self esteem, and for my son it was a horrible spiral of feeling like a failure and then acting like a failure if that makes sense. I have learned to be really confident in his abilities and to expect from him what I know he can do, but always be there to help too
Anyway, I hope some of that helps a bit. Obviously, this took a lot to trial and error. We still have good days and bad days, but I am a lot less stressed and I think he is too.