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Self Determination Theory of Emotion Regulation for Children and Adults

Intrinsic motivation defines that the reward of an activity is the activity itself. This is in contrast to “external” motivation where the application of reinforcement (or a punishment) creates the association and learning.

However, infants invalidate this assumption as evidenced by their exploration and manipulation of objects in the world around them… they challenge themselves to become competent. Therefore as humans we are wired since birth to determine our own competencies, skills and interests.

In order to create emotional competence, which is the ability to function adaptively in many various contexts across the wide range of emotional feelings, one must achieve emotional regulation.

Emotional regulation occurs when people are encouraged to self-initiate, experiment and be responsible. Self-initiation is supported by seeking to understand another person’s perspective, experimentation is when there is a choice about what to do and how to do it, and responsibility is learned when useful information is given to help make decisions.