Be sure to toss "hard worker" in there too. Internalizing "smart" can result in overemphasizing innate talent over determination, resulting in an attitude of "well, I guess this just isn't for me" on encountering something difficult, rather than "I need to try harder." Basically: every kid that ever coasted through high school without trying and gets terrible grades in college because they've never practiced studying (hi!).
We have a 4 year old daughter and whenever someone tells her how cute she is, she responds with, "Thank you, I'm smart too." People usually think it is hilarious. I just think it's true (and it is :) ). Of course she didn't come up this idea on her own, we started her on it but I hope she always remembers this and knows it's true. I like that maybe it gets the other person thinking about their words to little girls too.
On the flip side is she's figured out she can turn it around and in the times I've said, "You're so smart!" She'll respond with, "I'm cute too!" Little stinker! haha!
Or actually doing homework, because that's a thing. When I actually tried in college, I was a B+/A- student (engineering). Still, I graduated with a B- GPA...
Yes, we definitely encourage effort above all else. She's a perfectionist and a lot of times won't try to do something unless she knows she can do it well/right. It's been a high focus of ours to just try things and encourage making mistakes and it's really paying off in her reading. She's attempting to read lots of things now when previously she would quit when she hit a word she wasn't sure of.
FWIW her father and I were both Valedictorians in HS and Honors students in college (engineering majors).
Yes, this. Spouse and I were also Valedictorians and honors engineers in college.
My 9 year old son is such a perfectionist, and he won't try if he doesn't think he'll do it well. We have been working VERY hard with him over the years to correct this - teaching him that you have to practice, you can't start out being good at something.
He's also a sore loser (mainly at Chess, because he's super good at it.) We are working on that too.
Just this morning he freaked the fuck out on me. He's in the voluntary 4th grade math club. He didn't finish his homework. He starts crying that he'll get kicked out and not be able to compete if he doesn't finish. (The competition is in the spring. Completely the homework is a part of how they decide who goes. Only 3 or 4 kids of the 13 will get to compete - and it depends on how good you are AND if you finish the homework. If you are awesome and don't do the homework? You aren't going.)
Anyway- Firstly, I pointed out that he watched TV this week, so it's total BS that he "didn't have time". Secondly, most of the other kids don't finish either, so not finishing the homework doesn't mean you don't get to compete (especially since my husband is the volunteer math teacher). Thirdly, he was doing long division, which he'd never learned. So at 7:30 am I'm trying to teach him long division, and he has to leave at 8. And he has 2 full pages, 20 problems per page. I tried to be the gentle, calming influence. Because yelling really doesn't work. But after 15 minutes, I finally yelled "you are NOT going to learn it right away you have to PRACTICE. PUT IT AWAY." Oy. That upset the 3 year old so he started crying "you made me frustrated". Anyway, mother of the year.
I just wanted to say, I feel you. It's a lot of work to teach your kids about hard work, and learning, and not expecting everything to be easy. Boy, we started this when my son was 3 or 4 - at 9 it's STILL an issue.