This parent enables abuse and/or bullying by doing nothing.
They never hurt their children. They may clearly love their children. They probably know that they should protect their children. Yet they don't. Instead, they watch from the sidelines, chewing their lip and wringing their hands as their offspring are neglected, exploited or abused.
The reason for their inaction varies. Many are scared of their partners and, in some cases, they have had their spirits broken — they tried to stand up for themselves or their children in the past, and the fallout was so terrifying that they gave up. Some feel that they owe loyalty to their partner first and foremost, no matter how horrible that partner may be or how much they disagree with them. Others suffer from such crippling self-esteem issues (usually made worse by the abusive party) that they fail to trust their own judgement, and assume that the abusive party must be right — the abuser must be the "proper" parent and the bystander is the weak one that doesn't know how to discipline their children. Some are caught in a hopelessly tangled situation, afraid to take action in case they're wrong. Others are simply weak-willed or cowardly by nature, and becoming a parent hasn't changed that fact.
This character is rarely completely unsympathetic, especially if we know that they have tried to do something. However, much depends on their circumstances: the spouse of a Knight Templar who crusades for one child at the expense of the others is generally sympathetic, especially if they try to "make up" for the neglect. However, a parent who brings a new paramour into the house and stands by when he insults or attacks the kids might be judged even more harshly than the abuser — not only have they failed to defend their children, they brought the threat into the house in the first place.
While the attacker is normally a partner or spouse, it can be a Sadist Teacher or even a child bully that this parent cannot stand up to.
In order to qualify as a UBP, the parent must know that something is wrong. If they are completely unaware that their children are in trouble, they don't qualify. However, if they are clearly pretending that nothing is wrong and too quick to make excuses to concerned parties and handwave any possible unpleasantness, then they count. If they are in a situation where they are truly, totally helpless — such as being chained up while their vicious ex-partner attacks their children — then they do not count, as long as it is clear to the viewer that they would rescue their child if they could.
Usually, if the abuse is physical, the UBP will be female and the abuser male. If the abuse is emotional, the reverse is usually true. A step-parent can be an UBP, and will generally be sympathetic, as their desire to help the kids will conflict with not wanting to overstep the mark. The opposite of a Mama Bear or Papa Wolf. Particularly depressing subtrope of Adults Are Useless.
- In Death Note, Teru Mikami's mother cares for her son, and when he gets himself beaten up while trying to protect others from bullies, she tells him that he should not try to take on the impossible task of protecting everyone. While the third person omniscient narrator for his flashbacks in the manga supports that she said what she did for his sake, Teru himself narrates in the anime that his mother was not just, and sees her death along with several bullies as proof of a god that punishes evildoers.
- Fruits Basket:
- Momiji's dad ultimately chooses his wife over his son, asking Hatori to wipe his wife's memory of Momiji to prevent her from confronting the oh-so-horrible fact that, through no fault of his own, Momiji turns into a cute bunny when hugged. He promises Momiji that he'll love him twice as much to make up for his mother rejecting him. Yet all we see him do is constantly run interference to make sure Momiji sees as little of his mother and sister as possible. Momiji is even expected to apologise if he runs into them accidentally. When Momiji's sister, Momo, decides she wants to learn the violin, Momiji's dad stops Momiji's lessons in favour of his daughter getting the best violin tuition, without the risk of her encountering her brother... Even though the main reason Momo wants to learn violin is so she could play for Momiji, who she wants to have as a big brother. As with nearly all parents in this series no-one ever calls him out on this.
- Akito's father, Akira, truly loved his child but didn't seem to do much about Ren being incredibly distant as a parent. The most we see is him asking why she refuses to hold Akito and doesn't seem to react to her referring to their child simply as "the baby" and implying that everyone fusses over the kid enough that she doesn't need to bother. That's not even going into how she bullied Akira into agreeing to raise Akito as a boy regardless of her sex at birth, threatening to get an abortion if he refused. Presumably no one calls Akira out on this because he's the head of the house and incredibly sickly (and Akito adores him because he was the only parent who gave Akito any love).
- Kyoko was massively abused and eventually disowned by her father, while her mother did nothing but fret and wonder how her daughter turned out so poorly and what would the neighbors think?
- Tohru's grandfather is one of the more sympathetic examples from the manga. He really does love his son, but it's implied he had very little hand in Katsuya's upbringing because the two rarely saw eye-to-eye. In present times in the series, he loves Tohru dearly but his poor health means that he has to be cared for by Tohru's aunt and uncle. Realizing he can't do much to protect her from their cruelty and not wanting her to feel trapped, the best he can do is urge her to go somewhere else if there's a place she'd rather be at.
- In Naruto Gaiden, abuse in the form of neglect is presented with Sakura. While she is married to Sasuke and gave birth to Sarada with him, she stayed silent for over 10 years about Sasuke's disappearance within the family (he's out-in-duty watching over Orochimaru's hideout). She didn't tell Sarada anything about him besides the fact that he's a part of their family, and even actually lied by presenting Sasuke's old photo with Taka members, except by overlaying their figures with hers. While this problem is rectified in the end, it doesn't stop the fact that she basically did emotionally abuse her daughter by not giving her evidence. Abuse that started early and went on for over a decade doesn't magically heal by simply finding the answer in Real Life, as the series shows.
- This is actually Deconstructed. Because of the long, long time that Sarada spent without Sasuke, she ended up becoming closer with Naruto, who's basically her true father in all but name and genetics.
- Ouran High School Host Club: Narrowly subverted. At first glance, it seems that Tamaki's father, Yuzuru, doesn't try to prevent the endless emotional abuse that his son experiences at the hands of Yuzuru's utterly ruthless mother, and even goes along with her to stop him from meeting with his sickly mother. He actually opposes his mother. Every single bit. And actually wants Tamaki (and himself, naturally) to be able to live with Anne-Sophie so much that he deposes his mother to become the head of the Suoh Empire. Yuzuru's mother's reaction is priceless.
- In a particularly dark chapter of Pet Shop of Horrors, a mother fears that she is this, even though she has already fled from her violent partner, She has nightmares in which she not only fails to protect her young son, she actually shoves him in front of her after her ex-partner tries to stab her. Ultimately, she's far from spineless - she dies shielding her son from her ex-partner's attack.
- Reborn! (2004) has Nana Sawada, the main characters own mother. While she isnt necessarily a bad parent per say, she doesnt do much to help ease tensions between her husband and son and often takes her husbands side instead. She doesnt even show a lick of concern towards Tsunas low self-esteem and the blatant bullying he endures at school either.
- In The Tarot Cafe, one story has an alchemist trying to woo a heartless princess, with her promising to love him if he can make her laugh. He creates a very humanlike jester "doll" for this purpose, which the princess starts torturing for her own amusement. The alchemist realizes what's happening to the jester and is horrified, but he meets with Pamela uncertain of what to do. He eventually chooses to side with the jester, who feels genuine love for his creator, rather than the princess.
- Gladstone Gander in the DuckTales (1987) fanfic Little Brother. He tries to be competent, but old habits die hard, and since he is the luckiest goose in the world who's not used to exerting effort or thinking too hard, he has this problem.
- Hisashi sums up Masaru Bakugou's character and his impact on Katsuki's life in Conversations with a Cryptid:
Hisashi: I know that your father was so worthless that your mother had to chase him. That hes a spineless, pathetic wimp thats at the beck and call of his emotionally abusive wife. That not once in all your years has he ever defended you from her stupidity about strength and weakness, as though she were a chimpanzee frolicking about in the jungle as opposed to a functional human being raising a vulnerable child.
- Comes up somewhat frequently in Star Trek (2009) fanfics, because a widely used plot point is for Kirk to be/have been abused by his stepfather, which requires explaining why his mother never put a stop to it; this trope (usually tied into some underlying explanation having to do with Kirk's father's death) is one fairly common way to do sonote .
- In the Law & Order: UK story Delayed Shock, Matt confides to Alesha that he resents his mother as much as his abusive stepfather because she was a classic example of this.
- A rare male example, Eddie Adams/Dirk Diggler's father in Boogie Nights. Despite only a few brief scenes, in the beginning, it's pretty clear that the mother is an alcoholic and emotional abuser, and the father does nothing to stand up to his son.
- In Dead Poets Society, Neil's mother is revealed to be this in her small appearances in the film; while she clearly loves her son she does not stand up to her husband (a particularly mean Fantasy-Forbidding Father) forcing his life aspirations onto Neil even when she realizes how depressed it makes him.
- In the Danish film The Celebration, Else Klingenfeldt-Hansen did nothing to prevent her husband's horrific sexual abuse of their twin children, even when, on one occasion, she found him in the act of raping them.
- Heavily implied with Rose and Maggie's father in In Her Shoes. He is also a Henpecked Husband who allows their Wicked Stepmother to verbally and psychologically belittle and bully the women from childhood into adulthood, causing the former to believe that she'll never be pretty enough (even humiliating the poor girl at her bridal shower) and the latter to believe that she's stupid due to being illiterate.
- In Madea's Big Happy Family, this is an alternate way of viewing the mother, Shirley. Although she prides herself on being a decent, single parent who brought up her children to be God-fearing and respectful, the reality is all three of her children have substantial issues. Worst of all is those of eldest daughter Kimberly, who was raped by her Uncle at the age of 13 which culminated in her getting pregnant with her "brother" Byron, who Shirley, instead of pursuing any legal action from it, decides to turn to God and raise the boy as her own, which was withheld from him throughout his upbringing.
- In the Bollywood movie Student Of The Year, there are examples from both genders in two of the main characters' families.
- On Rohan's side, there's his father and older brother who are both emotionally and verbally abusive towards him because he wants to be a musician rather than a businessman like the two of them. Many scenes show how his mother doesn't agree with them, yet she does nothing to stop them. In the scene that first establishes this, Rohan looks towards her in hopes that she'll stand up for him as he's mocked for trying to show interest in the conversation his father and brother are having. When she doesn't act, he gives her a look of anger and resignation before the scene cuts away. Towards the climax of the movie, after he and Abhi have the fight that ends their friendship, the animosity between Rohan and his father comes to literal blows when his father hits him. When Rohan's mother rebukes him, Rohan immediately lays in on her and angrily calls her out for always standing by and doing nothing while he was treated like garbage.
- On Abhimanyu's side, his aunt (who took him in after his parents died) is shown to treat him as an unwanted guest at best and a freeloader at worst rather than her nephew, even calling him bad luck when his grandmother is hospitalized, knowing full well how the death of his parents affected him. All Abhimanyu's uncle does is weakly tell her to stop, but it's later implied that he does nothing more than that according to Abhimanyu, who says he's used to not being listened and ignored at home.
- In Stone Cold by Robert Swindells, the main character's mother allows her new boyfriend, Vince, to chase both of her children out of the house. Her older daughter moves in with her boyfriend after an implied proposition/assault by Vince. Her son, known only as "Link", fares even worse - Vince subjects him to constant insults (apparently trying to get the sixteen-year-old to leave), then locks him out of the house one night only to physically attack him upon his return, claiming to be enraged that Link "worried his mother" by staying out all night. He then leaves home, becoming homeless in the streets of Bradford. His mother clearly knows that Vince is abusive...but never once defends her children. This eventually leads to a disastrous Christmas party where Vince viciously berates and mocks Link...while his mother and sister stand by and say nothing. In fact, their Christmas gift to him is a sleeping bag — confirmation that, rather than rescuing him, they're effectively abandoning him and expect him to remain homeless. Link deciding to take his chances living on the street in London rather than living anywhere near Vince.
- In Jackie French's Summerland (not to be confused with several works of the same name), Bridget's mother is the in-denial variant of the spineless parent. She knows her husband is dangerous, and at least makes an attempt to get her daughter out of the way before he arrives home, but is ultimately always making excuses for him: if only she were a better wife, if only Bridget would be good and not make him so angry... Eventually, Bridget stands up for herself and leaves home to seek the safety of her grandparents' house. Her mum supports this decision, yet her main concern is that Bridget doesn't let them know what's going on.
- In My Sister's Keeper, Brian never seems entirely comfortable with using Anna as a Walking Transplant. Yet he does nothing for 13 years, during which Anna undergoes many painful, invasive surgeries. He seems to be making a stand when she herself sues for medical emancipation though...only to break down on the stand and admit that really, he wants Anna to do what her mother, Sara, wants her to do (presumably because he's terrified that Anna's sister, Kate, will die otherwise).
- Peeta's father in The Hunger Games. He's portrayed as a kind and loving man but he is never shown to have intervened when his wife hit their youngest son (and presumably the two older ones as well) nor did he offer any protest when she told Peeta to his face that he had no chance of surviving the Games. The second book of the series implies that she even whipped her children and their father didn't do anything to prevent it.
- In the The House of Night series, Zoey's mother is treated as this by both Zoey and her grandmother, who blame her for marrying an abusive man and neglecting her children. Considering the mom was apparently a good parent until her second marriage and her new husband is incredibly controlling of her (and the implication that she's financially dependent on him), this has a few Unfortunate Implications.
- In the Divergent series, Four's mom, Evelyn, escaped from the abusive family life she had and left her hapless son to be abused by his father, Marcus, for over 10 years. She knew that the abuse is going on, but deliberately never met, comforted, or retook her job as a mom afterward until he was 16 years old. Unlike many examples in the series, though, it's very much called out: the first time that the two reunited, Four proceeded to give her a middle finger and refused to meet her again (though he changed his mind eventually). Tris also doesn't like to be in her company for similar reasons.
- In Jumper, David's mom runs away from her abusive husband but leaves Davy with him. Davy doesn't blame her, but she believes that she has to make amends for leaving him to face the abuse alone, as part of the Alanon step program.
- The self-help psychology book If You Had Controlling Parents: How to Make Peace with your Past and Take you place in the World identified such parents as a "Childlike Parent" who "Feeling incapable or needy, Childlike parents offer their children little protection. Childlike parents, woefully uncomfortable with themselves, encourage their children to take care of them, thereby controlling through role-reversal."
- A Frozen Heart, a tie-in novel to Frozen (2013), reveals that Prince Hans lives with an abusive family, where his father and 11 of his 12 older brothers constantly mock, beat up and mistreat Hans every day. His mother was very much against this but years of her husband's cruelty and abuse at everyone has made her terrified, reducing her to an Extreme Doormat who is unable to do anything but give Hans small smiles to acknowledge him, but his brothers pick on him for it. Her reaction to what her youngest son did in Arendelle is never revealed.
- Cyan's mother, Belinda, in The Amy Virus, is this. She hated scamming people with the Good Brain Diet, hated the actual diet itself, and hated the Financial Abuse the blog was doing to Cyan. She wanted to end the blog after the first year, but her husband Daniel kept scaring her into thinking that the scam and the Finacial Abuse was the only way for them to make money. It took Cyan finally running away after Daniel's threat to lock her up in an institution if she kept rebelling against him for Belinda to finally stand up to Daniel. She subsequently becomes The Atoner by forcibly divorcing Daniel, taking full custody of Cyan so Daniel can never hurt her again, and publically revealing the truth about the Good Brain Diet to shut the scam down.
- In Ella Enchanted, Ella's father admits to being upset by how she's treated by her stepfamily, but not so much that he's willing to return home to put a stop to it.
- In the backstory of Worm, Taylor's father was so busy mourning the death of his wife that he never noticed that his only child was being subjected to a psychological terror campaign masterminded by her best friend (the daughter of his best friend) for two years, leading to her Triggering with insect control powers and eventually becoming a supervillain.
- In Quincy, M.E. episode "A Good Smack in the Mouth", a mother fails to protect her son from an abusive boyfriend. Even the boy's teacher and doctor believe the excuses for all the injuries.
- Veronica Mars: Logan's mother Lynn is very aware that her husband Aaron is a violent abuser who beats his son with a belt. She tries to ignore it by drinking extensively. She later commits suicide after Logan threatens to kill Aaron.
- In Roseanne, the titular character and her sister were beaten as children by their father. When discussing this as adults, Jackie notes that whenever it happened their Mom wasn't any better, and would just go into the kitchen and wash dishes until it was over. Roseanne points out that their Mom's general approach to any problem was "ignore it and it'll go away."
- The Bible: David's oldest son, Amnon, rapes his half-sister Tamar, which is discovered by Tamar's other brother, Absalom. We are told that David is furious about this...but not that Amnon suffers any sort of punishment. It's Absalom who refuses to speak to Amnon for years and eventually kills him. Now David gets around to acting, in that he nearly kills Absalom, but is eventually convinced not to. Presumably this all contributes to Absalom's FaceHeel Turn.
- I Samuel 2 features Eli, the elderly priest and judge of Israel, who neglected or failed to discipline his sons, Hophni and Phinehas, and as a result, his adult sons extorted raw meat from the ones bringing the offering when the fat was supposed to be burned off (Leviticus 3:3-5), and to make matters worse, they slept with the women who assembled at the tabernacle's entrance. By the time Eli reproves them, they ignore his warnings; the situation isn't helped by Eli's age, which was about 80-something to 90-something years old. A prophet comes along warning Eli that his sons would be slain in battle and that Eli's sins would not be atoned for; instead, Eli's adoptive apprentice, Samuel, becomes the next High Priest and leader of Israel.
- Cinderella's Father in Into the Woods is just enough of a character to ignore the abuse she suffers at the hands of her Stepmother and Stepsisters. He'd be window dressing, if not for the fact that she addresses him directly as he accompanies the others to the Prince's ball. He brushes her off but doesn't offer any abuse of his own.
- Spring Awakening: In "The Dark I Know Well", Martha implies this about her mother
You say, "Time for bed, now, child"
Mom just smiles that smile
Just like she never saw me
- In Cinderella Phenomenon, King Genaro didn't do much to protect his daughter, Princess Lucette, against the abuse she suffered in her childhood. This was because he feared the abuser wouldn't let him see Lucette anymore if he tried to intervene.
- RWBY: Zigzagged with Willow Schnee. While she does love her children, her despair at discovering her husband Jacques was a Gold Digger led her to become an alcoholic and barely present in her children's lives, too trapped in her own helplessness to stop Jacques from abusing them. However, she has also been secretly recording Jacques' activities in the manor for her and her children's safety, and acknowledges the role she played in creating the abusive environment they live in when she points out to Weiss that her brother Whitley hates her and wants nothing to do with her because she left him all alone with two terrible parents.
- Betty Sri'Vastra of Friendly Hostility appears to be the source of Collin's woes, but later comics indicate that she's actually trying to keep her upwardly-mobile, conservative husband happy by keeping Collin in line...and perhaps, acts as a buffer between the harsher personality of Jerry Sri'Vastra and their son. She recognises Collin's discontent, and when she discovers that Collin is gay, she doesn't tell her husband for fear that he won't let her see her son again. She won't stand up to Jerry, but she still doesn't want to lose her son.
- Khaos Komix: The Reveal in Jamie's story is that his mother, in addition to being emotionally and physically abusive herself, knew about his sexual abuse as a young child by a family friend but did nothing because it would have made her look bad. He immediately cuts all ties with her.
- In The Boondocks episode "The Color Ruckus", Uncle Ruckus' mother, Bunny Ruckus, was definitely one of these. Although she did love her children and cared about them, she did very little to stop her husband Mister Ruckus from regularly beating the tar out of Uncle when he was a little kid, usually doing nothing more than yelling out "LORD HAVE MERCY, MY BABY!" in impotent protest. Even though she was horrified to see Mister literally throwing Uncle out of their home and did try to prevent him from doing so, for some reason she still stayed with her husband and didn't rescue her lost son. Overall, Bunny was well-meaning but utterly worthless as a guardian.
- In Daria, Jake had a Hilariously Abusive Childhood (mostly psychological, it seems) from his now-deceased father, "Mad-Dog" Morgendorffer. One episode has his mother Ruth visit and admit that she wishes that she had stood up to Mad-Dog, both for Jake and for herself. (A tie-in book also includes a bitter letter that Jake sent to his father, with a parenthetical note to Ruth saying that he doesn't blame her because he knows that she could never stand up to him.)
- In The Simpsons Marge would often only offer token resistance to the abuse Bart suffered, acknowledging that it was happening, but never really doing anything about it. This is especially true when it came to the Parental Favoritism shown to Lisa. Homer was able to easily convince her to consider Bart a lost cause at age six once they discovered that Lisa was a Child Prodigy.
- Subverted in South Park with Cartman and his mother, where it is in fact the child who is the source of the abuse. Cartman's mother has shown on occasion that she clearly disapproves of her son's sadistic and cruel behavior, but she's such an enormous pushover that the most she usually does in response is to politely ask him to stop. In the season ten episode "Tsst," it's revealed that her enabling is a result of her having no other people in her life who care about her enough to spend time with her, and she uses her son to fill the void, spoiling him in the process.