Are South Asian Mothers still Raising Mummy’s Boys?

It is no secret that South Asian mothers like to pamper their sons, but is this indulgence creating narcissists and damaging women?

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"He is my son, why wouldn't I spoil him?"

It is common for South Asian mothers to pamper their sons more than their daughters, but is this creating toxic men?

This behaviour tends to be reflective of a patriarchal culture, where Desi families are generally run by the father or grandfather as the head of the household and carry the family name.

Hence, Desi women are always under that common pressure to produce a son and, therefore, look after the next generation of the household.

As a result of this, Desi sons are often held in higher esteem than daughters and this can have an impact on their upbringing.

Given priority over girls in a Desi household and literally valued more for being a boy, can have many repercussions for them.

Sometimes this pampering can lead to individuals developing narcissistic and ignorant characteristics. 

There is nothing wrong with supporting a child’s need for confidence, but when that later turns into arrogance and toxic behaviour, it can be very unhealthy, especially in adult life.

For example, immoderate mollycoddling by mothers of boys can lead to excessive demands. This can transpire into a learned behaviour in adulthood, resulting in anger and frustration if demands are not met.

South Asian mothers always want the best for their children and when it comes to gender, boys are often put first, when it comes to freedom of choice.

An outcome of this kind of upbringing of boys can impact their relationships with women in the future, where the women suffer from the fallout. This can lead to the man being labelled as a mummy’s boy.

Although, things are progressively changing, where newer generations of South Asian women are seeing the importance of bringing boys up with a more balanced outlook, there are still issues that cloud this progress.

DESIblitz looks at the various ways such parenting could be creating environments that are not healthy.

Parenting Styles

The way that many South Asian mothers are raising their sons could be damaging, especially for women in the family who may suffer at the expense of the men.

Whilst there is no rule book as to how mothers should bring up their sons, there are common traits within the South Asian communities that do dominate the parenting agenda when it comes to boys.

The effects of these parenting styles that many South Asian mothers have opted for can have a tendency towards dominance.

It can create behaviour that is quite closely linked to narcissism. Narcissists have excessive admiration of themselves and can project this fondness onto others.

Developmental psychologist, Diana Baumrind, categorised four main parental styles, such as:

  • Permissive: Where parents take on more of a friendship role. They’re seen as laidback with few or no rules enforced and have a high response to children. They work to keep the children happy, even if it means going against themselves.
  • Authoritative: They are nurturing and supportive.  Authoritative parents have healthy communication, and flexible rules/expectations.
  • Neglectful: Children tend to fend for themselves and parents struggle to care for or nurture them. Such parents can be seen as cold and uninvolved.
  • Authoritarian: Parent has high demands, that may not be attainable. Dictatorship-like parenting style and can be described as rigid.

These parenting styles, with the exception of Authoritative, can be seen as potentially damaging and toxic. Some show too much affection and smothering, whilst others show no affection at all.

South Asian households can be a mix of Authoritarian and Permissive. This can lead to mixed signals of parenting where strictness plays a major theme but then leeway is frequently given to sons over daughters.

Excessive Pampering and Spoiling

Many South Asian mothers can be overprotective and treat their children like babies; doing everything for them.

It is not wrong to occasionally spoil children, but when this is too much and is common nature for them, it leads to a growth in dependency on the mother.

This kind of mothering does not allow Desi boys to learn for themselves and takes away their independence.

They can become reliant on others and may be unable to do things for themselves like cooking for example, which is a life skill that everyone should possess.

This kind of excessive pampering can also introduce laziness, arrogancy and expectancy in their adult life. Where they expect, especially their partners, to do everything for them.

45-year-old Tanveer Khan*, who is a care assistant and mother of three said:

“He is my son, why wouldn’t I spoil him? Doesn’t every mother want their son to live the best life?”

“I don’t think preparing his meals or tidying his room is something he should be doing.”

On the other side of the spectrum, neglectful parenting can also have a huge impact.

It can make children feel inadequate and they may not feel accepted as they are. Reducing confidence in the child immensely. When they are older, this can manifest into a narcissistic personality.

Sanjeev Panday*, a 30-year-old driver says:

“My parents were always busy with their business, so had little or no time for me. I just accepted it.

“But when I was older, I realised there was a void in my life due to this. This led to me being defensive and disagreeing with people a lot.”

It is important for parents to provide a balanced and healthy upbringing for children, especially boys, where respect and understanding of girls and women is part of it.

However, many South Asian mothers still feel spoiling their sons is harmless, but is this true?

Values of this Upbringing

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A High Sense of Importance

Some men can hold themselves in high regard, and see themselves as better than others because of such pampering. This can lead them to bring others down, by elevating themselves.

It can make them feel overconfident and superior to others with very few consequences for their actions.

Those who suffer around them as a result of this can develop a variety of issues surrounding self-esteem and confidence.

In most instances, South Asian culture and typical mothering practices don’t lessen this burden.

Firstly, because it is common for South Asian families to want sons as opposed to daughters, making boys feel naturally superior. This is particularly common in Indian culture.

Times of India reported that sons tend to be preferred over daughters in India. This is because girls will leave the family after marriage and won’t take the family forward like a boy will.

Aakash Kumar*, a 21-year-old retail assistant and writer from Manchester speaks about the prevalence of bias towards boys in Indian culture. He says:

“Well I think men and women are equal and hence I believe that Indian families who discriminate between sons and daughters are very wrong.

“You may know that there is actually a strict law in India prohibiting sex determination before birth, so as to prevent deliberate abortions of female fetuses.

“Although that is the right step, it is still a matter of great shame that India needs that law.”

“Boys and girls are to be treated equally and families should look at both daughters and sons as a gift and with the same amount of love and respect. ”

Boys are sometimes perceived as an asset and girls as a liability. Many also believe that educating a girl is not the best way to invest, as opposed to educating boys.

To support this, the double standards that South Asian families sometimes impose on boys and girls, tend to favour boys more, allowing them to do things the girls are forbidden to do.

Furthermore, the overly compassionate behaviour shown to boys, usually from South Asian mothers, confirms their feelings of superiority.

Especially since their female counterparts may rarely receive treatment like this from their parents.

Whilst there is no harm in showing affection to sons in the family, it can be unfair for daughters who may not experience the same love.

An Entitlement Mentality

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Many boys have an upbringing that allows them to believe they have an elevated status. Subsequently, they can develop feelings of entitlement.

This means they feel that they deserve certain privileges or special treatment simply from their existence, without having done anything to earn it.

For such individuals, they come first in all situations and they prioritise their needs, irrespective of the effects this can have on others.

This can come from permissive parenting styles, where sometimes mothers, will aim to make their sons happy at the expense of their own happiness.

Thus, boys may feel their needs deserve prioritisation over others since this was the case during their younger years at home.

Sanjay Manaktula, a writer on Medium, expressed that many mothers prepare food for their sons, even if they themselves were exhausted.

He felt confused when his white counterparts didn’t get the same attention from their moms as he did:

“Where were their snacks from home they might need in case our food wasn’t good or a tornado struck?”

He added saying:

“A girlfriend or wife who looks at you on your phone while the dishes are still sitting on the table isn’t gonna tolerate things the same way your mom did.”

This can create issues for Desi boys expecting women in their lives to be at their service, as their mothers were during their younger years.

Such entitlement can stem from many of the narcissistic traits that are common in mummy’s boys and can be draining for others.

This can manifest in many forms and some of the more relevant examples are:

  • Believing female relatives or partners should cook, wash and clean for them and that it is never their responsibility
  • Feeling entitled to female attention and maybe not responding well to rejection
  • Expecting rigid adherence to their demands, often with no disagreements.

Shreya Anand*, a 26-year old Indian teacher from London, said:

“Working as a teacher is tiring, and the last thing I want to be doing when I get home is cooking for my husband.

“But if I ever turned around and refused to cook for him, let’s just say I would be in a lot of trouble.

“The last time I told him I was too tired to cook for him, he told me I was his wife, and it was my job to listen to him and do what he asked.

“He said that my tiredness wasn’t his problem and that I should be grateful for the roof he put over my head.”

Shreya is one of many women in relationships where wives are forced to compromise their own needs in order to accommodate their husbands.

This tends to transpire as a result of those girls who have grown up with their South Asian mothers who strongly believe in patriarchal ways of life.

A Need For Control

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The way South Asian mothers can sometimes raise their sons, can lead men to need control. Their sisters or mothers may act in accordance with what is asked of them.

Therefore, if women do not obey them outside their home, they can become extremely frustrated and angry. They work to maintain control and can be very manipulative.

This can be toxic because many do not realise that they are being manipulative. Hence, they may adopt controlling and possessive behaviours, particularly towards their wives and daughters.

Such controlling behaviour is mental abuse, and the anger that can stem from a need for control can lead to physical and even sexual abuse.

48-year-old Fatima told The Metro that her controlling Pakistani husband would hide her keys, and make her think she was losing her memory. She said:

“He would give me silent treatment, gaslight and undermine whatever I would do. I felt that I could never do anything right and he made me feel that I was a failure.

“My family members would be given false information and my husband acted like he was the victim. He blamed me for the failure of the marriage which has caused me and my children to be isolated.”

In 2019, 63-year-old Salamat Khan faced jail for psychologically abusing his family due to two of his daughters refusing arranged marriages.

His 34-year-old son Abbas supported him and outcasted his sisters, saying they were no longer welcome in the family after marrying out of their own choice.

Sadly, such abuse is common, especially in Pakistani families with similar situations of girls refusing arranged marriages. 

This is also the case for many Pakistani girls who chose to marry out of their caste, ethnicity, or religion.

Often, Pakistani girls are subjected to forced marriages, having little or no say in their union.

Whilst many might not get forced to marry, they may suffer from a life of blackmail and manipulation. Their family may also degrade them for their choices regarding marriage.

A Lack of Accountability

Some men may refuse to take accountability for their mistakes. They may deny making a mistake or manipulate the situation to make it seem like their view and decision prevails.

It is unlikely that they respond well to criticism and may take it as a personal attack.

Sometimes, their upbringing can lead them to blame others, especially if they grew up believing they’re never in the wrong.

Especially for those who were not disciplined for poor behaviour whilst growing up.

Thus, it can be very difficult for the sons of South Asian mothers to ever see any wrong in any of their actions. They may flip the narrative to make themselves the victim, this is a ‘victim mindset’.

Umar Khalil*, a 24-year-old Pakistani accountant from Birmingham said:

“In all honesty, when I was younger I got away with things my sister could never get away with.”

“Which of course was advantageous for me, but when I started secondary school I would get into a lot of trouble, and I didn’t respond well to teachers telling me off.

“I found it weird when my teachers would describe me as someone who was troubled because I didn’t like them telling me off, but of course this was because I had never been told off before.”

Being a mummy’s boy can mean that many boys struggle with accepting their mistakes or wrongdoings.

This is because whilst they were growing up, their mothers did not punish them for any bad behaviour but instead made them feel they did nothing wrong.

An Excessive Need for Validation

Boys tend to boast about their achievements, and their parents can encourage this. It is their South Asian mothers who may excessively boast.

This tends to be the case when many Desi boys cook or help with basic household chores. Or even with academic success.

It seems that their acts are worthy of extra praise because the outcome is from a boy.

Placing children on pedestals for anything and everything can allow them to develop arrogance. It’s good to praise children, but it should occur in moderation.

Many mummy’s boys want praise and recognition, for even the simplest of acts.

This is a learned behaviour projected into them by their parents, and mothers especially.

If they don’t get the praise, they can get angry and frustrated, and feel unappreciated. This need for validation and approval can be a sign of insecurity.

Women in the home can feel inadequate compared to men who are often showered with praise. They can develop a low sense of self-worth due to this.

Kamaljeet Kaur* a 26-year-old banker says:

“When I was growing up I found that when my brothers did something tiny in the house to help my mother would go over the top thanking them for it.

“But for me and my sister, it was just expected from us. So, praise was something I was never used to in the household.

“This impacted my own ability to receive praise from people and even give it as well, especially, to men.”

A Lack of Empathy

The effects of being a mummy’s boy can make many Desi sons lack empathy. This may be because many have had an upbringing where their needs took priority over the needs of others.

This can lead many to treat people badly, some examples of this include:

  • Not caring how their actions impact others, and not feeling like they have done wrong
  • Having a victim mindset in most situations
  • Dismiss the feelings of others, and refuse to accept that they have wronged them
  • Gaslight the victim into believing it is their own fault, and lead them to believe their actions have caused the outcome

Such treatment is unfortunately common in abusive relationships, which can sometimes make it difficult for women to realise they are being mentally and/or physically abused.

26-year-old Aleysha Khan* from Bradford found that her life changed after she married a family friend from Pakistan. She says:

“He wouldn’t let me see my family, and he told me it was my fault that our family was broken.”

“I was blamed for trying to help bring everyone closer.

“He said I was drawing us further away. I would get hit for protesting that I should be allowed to visit my family.

“It took me years to realise he was wrong. Our family was broken because he was too arrogant to respect people. And that was never my fault.”

A lack of empathy can stem from an upbringing where one was raised to believe their requirements take priority always. But when boys grow up with this kind of attention, it can make them controlling and abusive.

Are South Asian Mothers to Blame?

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Sometimes the environment that many boys grow up in can lead them to develop the behaviour of a mummy’s boy.

Perhaps it may not just be mothers who are responsible for this, but rather fathers may have accountability in this situation, particularly concerning domestic abuse.

In 2020, 3.6% of 16- 74-year-old Asians in the UK (including Indians, Pakistanis and Bengalis) accounted for domestic violence cases according to government statistics.

Many young boys who grow up seeing their South Asian mothers abused can face trauma, which negatively impacts their childhood.

They may become overprotective of their mothers when they grow up. Sometimes they can also develop toxic relationships with others.

This is because they have grown up with a warped example of what relationships and marriages should be like.

Some examples of what this can manifest into include:

  • Controlling and manipulative behaviour, particularly with future partners
  • Inability to trust others, thus developing a paranoid personality
  • Further domestic abuse on wives and daughters

The cycle of domestic abuse can continue when boys begin to form adult relationships, according to a report from Psychology Today.

Many Desi men may treat women badly, because of how South Asian mothers have raised them to see superiority in themselves.

To accompany this, mothers and mothers-in-law, traditionally do not support daughters and wives who face the backlash of such men.

Sometimes, they may even praise their sons on how they behave and if they were to act differently, they would be seen as weak and not in charge.

However, things could be slowly changing, DESIblitz asked the question of Anchal Seda, an author, YouTuber and podcaster, who openly comments on the lifestyle issues of British South Asian women. 

Anchal gave her views on British Asian women still bringing up mummy’s boys or not, saying:

“Maybe not so much anymore. I feel we are seeing progression.

“There are always going to be some mummy’s boys.

“But I am noticing a lot of progression amongst young Asian mums now, where they’re making the effort to educate their sons and making the effort to make them feel equal and respect women as well.

“Because they [mums] know what they been through and they remember it a lot more.”

When asked about the disparity between sons and daughters in Asian households, Anchal gave examples of her own family, saying:

“To be honest my brother is, like, way more domesticated than I am. 

“I don’t know. He definitely has been favoured more than I have. Like ‘golden boy’ you can do no wrong!

“But he genuinely does do no wrong which is so annoying and I am the one who is doing everything wrong!

“Growing up there was that comparison that he can do it because he’s a boy.”

“We need to change that.”

The irony in all of this is that mothers are women themselves, and their daughters, and daughters-in-law, as well. 

While South Asian mothers who give young boys love, confidence and rear them as strong individuals to face life is not at all a bad thing, it is important that their upbringing is balanced.

They will not help their child if he grows up to be a man who develops traits in adulthood that will impact his relationships with women, his communication and attitudes towards others.

If a Desi boy is brought up to feel he can do no wrong, he is better than his sisters, he does not need to do anything around the house and is praised everything, he will certainly face issues in his life.

Therefore, instead of raising a mummy’s boy, parents, South Asian mothers especially, should raise respectful, compassionate and caring men, who will be respected and valued by others.

Halimah is a law student, who likes reading and fashion. She's interested in human rights and activism. Her motto is "gratitude, gratitude and more gratitude"

Images courtesy of WomensWeb, kidadl, Unsplash, The Mirror, Hindustan Times.

*Names have been changed for anonymity.