The concept was first introduced by Katharina Rutschky in her 1977 work Schwarze Pädagogik. Quellen zur Naturgeschichte der bürgerlichen Erziehung. The psychologist Alice Miller used the concept to describe child-raising approaches that, she believed, damage a child’s emotional development. Miller claims that this alleged emotional damage promotes adult behavior harmful to individuals. She explains how poisonous pedagogy in the name of “child rearing” leads to dysfunctions and neurosis of all kinds. For instance in her book For Your Own Good she discussed its common impact on three distinct lives- Adolf Hitler, Jürgen Bartsch and Christiane F. whereas in The Body Never Lies, she talks about the impact of childhood trauma and repressed emotions on the human body.
“Poisonous pedagogy” is described by these theorists as what happens when a parent (or teacher, nurse, or other caregiver) believes that a young child’s behavior demonstrates that the child is infected with the “seeds of evil”, and therefore attempts to weed out the evil, either by emotional manipulation or by brute force. Simple examples include the beating of children as punishment for lying, or mothers who refuse to feed their newborn until a set time, in order to “teach him patience, which will be useful for him in later life”.