South Asian Parenting: A Rough Guide


south asian parenting


Parenting practices vary widely across cultures, reflecting the unique values ​​and traditions that shape each society. South Asian Parenting is rooted in a rich picture of heritage and customs, and takes on a distinct flavour that emphasizes family ties, discipline, upbringing and traditional values. In this blog, we dive into the intricacies of desi parenting, exploring its key principles, approaches, and impact on children’s lives, whether at home or abroad.


Since the Social Media scene exploded, there have been numerous expressions of desi parenting in all its glory. From memes to fits-of-laughter-inducing reels and shorts. While this generation has given its best to find humour in the very serious task of child-rearing, there is much to unpack about South Asian parenting. But first… something to laugh about:


reshaping childrens future

The common chappal is more than just footwear. It helps shape their offspring’s future, too.

South Asian Parenting through the Cinematic Lens


Remember Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995)?


It was one of the few movies that defined and inspired an entire generation. It is a study of culture – Punjabi, South Asian and Diaspora. Many people will instantly place it in the ‘Romance’ genre – which it is. But when you take it apart piece by piece, there is a lot going on. The movie was about cultural identity and norms, family bonds, and even the changing parenting styles among South Asian parents. Children born in the 80s and even in the 90s, many of whom are parents themselves today, can vouch for the deep cultural impact of the movie. While the movie focuses on the adventures and romance of Raj and Simran, we cannot ignore the representation of desi parents and parenting in the movie, the most memorable of which were Simran’s parents, Baldev and Lajjo and Raj’s father Dharamvir. 


Dharamvir was an indulgent parent, giving his offspring free reign and yet, having a close bond with his son that many would envy. In the early part of the movie, Dharamvir may be written off as an utter buffoon who doesn’t quite know what he is doing regarding raising a child. He goes completely against the typical South Asian dad mode when he shows unwavering support to Raj when he fails in college (or university). But later on, as the plot progresses, Dharamvir guides and encourages Raj through trials, tribulations, and even consequences. If Dharamvir were to be categorized by a parenting style, he’d be the Authoritative Parent (this fits the bill quite loosely).


Simran’s dad Baldev, on the other hand, is a caricature of the quintessential desi dad: he demands absolute authority, and always had the last word. Baldev has laid down the law, and his family must always follow it without question. This is evident early on. However, the 90s was a monumental decade that heralded rapid changes for times to come. And parenting was changing too. Baldev is at the very precipice. Simran convinces him to allow her to participate in the adventure of her lifetime, and he agrees. His authoritarian nature returns when he discovers Simran’s transgression. but then, in the end, he wavers from everything he has known, allowing Simran to “Ja Simran… ja jee le apni zindagi“.


south asian parenting

Copyrights: Yash Raj Films


I believe that movies are more than entertainment. They leave a deep impact on our lives and even our choices. We mould ourselves to look and act like our cinematic heroes. There is a body of academic research that studied the cultural impact and nuances of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. But the portrayal of typical South Asian parents rings true even today. Millennials and people born in the years directly preceding the Millenial age could relate to the family life and parenting depicted in this revolutionary movie. It spoke to everyone. I believe that was one of the things that contributed to its much-deserved, immense success.


I’ve used this movie as an example for two reasons: 1. There are contrasting examples available and 2. South Asian parenting is still struggling to find a balance between Baldev and Dharamvir.


Desi Parenting Recipe Mix

South Asian, or desi parenting as I like to call it, is a mixed pot. So much goes into it; it’s not just about having a baby and then raising her. The stakes are high. This melting pot has a number of ingredients:


1. Cultural Foundations

South Asian parenting is deeply influenced by the region’s rich cultural heritage, which includes India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal. These societies place emphasis on family structure, respect for elders, collectivism, and the transmission of cultural values ​​across generations. Parents strive to instill a sense of cultural identity and pride in their children, ensuring they remain connected to their roots.


2. Respect and Obedience

Respect for those in authority, especially parents and elders, is a fundamental aspect of South Asian parenting. Children learn to value and follow their parents’ advice, thus reinforcing the hierarchical family dynamics. This emphasis on respect often applies to teachers and other elders in the community, promoting a sense of discipline and obedience.


3. Balancing Modernity and Traditions

South Asian parents walk a delicate line between preserving traditional values ​​and embracing modern influences. Parents strive to maintain cultural traditions, religious practices, and customs while allowing their children to explore and adapt to the contemporary world. This balancing act can lead to intergenerational conflict and negotiation, as traditional values ​​sometimes clash with the younger generation’s individualistic and Westernized values.


4. Extended Family and Community:

In South Asian cultures, extended family plays an important role in raising a child. Grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins ​​are support systems. They offer care, guidance, advice, love, and cultural teachings. The larger community also plays an important role, as neighbours and friends often act as complementary role models and mentors. It follows the concept of “it takes a village to raise a child”.


South Asian Parenting: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

As with all things, there are pros and cons to South Asian Parenting. We can’t say if one outweighs the other. However, striking the right balance is paramount.


The Good Stuff

Education is a Priority: One of the significant advantages of having a South Asian parent is the emphasis on education. Parents prioritize academic success, setting high standards for their children. This emphasis on education gives children a running start, foster a work ethic, discipline, and drive to succeed, equipping children with valuable skills for future endeavours.


Strong Family Bonds: Desi parents take family very seriously. Parents and extended family members form a vital support system for children. This support system can contribute to children’s emotional well-being, resilience, and deep connection to their cultural heritage.


Pride in Cultural Identity: Parents try to pass on their cultural traditions, languages ​​and values ​​to their children. This sense of identity can help children confidently navigate the world, respecting their heritage and appreciating diversity.


Discipline and Respect: Discipline and respect is a cornerstone of South Asian parenting. Children learn to obey and show respect to their parents, elders, and teachers. This focus on discipline can cultivate self-control, accountability, and a strong moral compass.


desi parents meme


The Not-So-Good Stuff:

Too Many Expectations: One of the challenges of growing up in a South Asian family is the undue pressure and high expectations on children. Parents’ focus on academic achievement and success can lead to a highly competitive and stressful environment. Children can face tremendous pressure to excel, negatively impacting their mental health and overall well-being.


Limited Individuality and Freedom: In a typical South Asian family, there is always we, never an I. Everything happens for the common good. Individuality is rarely appreciated or encouraged.


Sticking to Predefined Gender Roles: Traditional gender roles and societal expectations can limit the options and opportunities available to children, especially in career paths and personal relationships. This can lead to a lack of self-control and interfere with self-expression and discovery.


Controlling Emotions and Mental Health: In South Asian families, showing emotions is a sign of weakness. There is a lot of emphasis on emotional control. Children may internalize their feelings and find it difficult to seek emotional support or deal with mental health issues. This cultural norm has led to stigma around mental health issues, making it harder for children to seek help when needed.


Generation Gap and Culture Shock: The generation gap is now more pronounced in a rapidly changing world. Even within the borders of Pakistan, India and other countries, there is a culture shock within the same homes. This can lead to stress and conflict between parents and children as they face the complexity of cultural identities and social norms.


By recognizing both the advantages and drawbacks of South Asian parenting, parents can adapt their approach to creating a nurturing environment that combines the best of tradition and modernity, fostering the holistic development of their children.


Final Thoughts

South Asian parenting blends tradition, discipline and cultural values, fostering a strong sense of identity and belonging. It prioritizes nurturing, respecting and bonding families while adapting to the dynamic change of the modern world. By understanding the nuances of South Asian parenting, we can appreciate its profound impact on shaping individuals and communities, nurturing cultural heritage and strength.


As with Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (above), the South Asian family straddles the chasm of tradition and modernity. The manner in which parents choose to raise their children has changed. While the cultural aspect and family hierarchy remains steadfast, other aspects, such as respect for individuality or gender roles, are constantly evolving.




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