Ken Tucker
September 12, 2012 AT 03:35 PM EDT

Parenthood began its new season last night, and as always, the series is not just entertaining — it gives any parent a lot to think about when it comes to parenting styles. We can enjoy the show for its mix of drama and comedy, but it’s so well-written and well-acted, it also holds up to some scrutiny when it comes to parenting styles:

• Adam and Kristina: They’re the most harried, the most adaptable, the most strained. They survived Haddie’s mild rebellious streak, they deal with Max’s Asperger syndrome with the human mixture of admirable patience and understandable frustration, and they have a new baby who doesn’t seem to get lost in the constant movement of their lives.

• Sarah: Now that Amber is out of the house, she meddles shamelessly in teen son Drew’s life. Sarah is one of those parents who tries to act as though she’s being loose and working on the same level as her kid, but she’s also twisting herself in knots trying to not-so-subtly steer her offspring into doing the right thing. For a single mom with big relationship issues of her own she does… a good job?

• Julia and Joel: Ah, Parenthood‘s most taxing parents. Julia juggles her job and her parenthood awkwardly, fitfully, committing to discipline one minute, overcome by work-guilt the next. Joel, I feel, can never catch a break — he’s often at the mercy of Julia’s abrupt decisions. Their adoption of Victor was one of those Parenthood moves that made me yell at the screen, “No, not a boy who’s older than Sydney, who’s going to feel alienated by suburban culture, no!” Sure enough, they’re letting the kid loll around watching TV, squirting junk food into his mouth, because they weren’t prepared for this challenge. Again.

• Crosby and Jasmine: They mean well, don’t they? But when little Jabbar has an arrested-adolescent like Crosby for a dad, he’s bound to be confused. The season premiere debate over Jabbar’s spiritual education was a perfect example of the way Crosby and Jasmine talk things to death without really coming up with a plan their child can really feel is solid.

• Camille and Zeek: As the matriarch and patriarch of Parenthood, we should hold them responsible for the bunch of lovable goof-ups they’ve sent loose upon the world. A lot has been ascribed to their baby-boomer, let’s-experiment early years, and while both continue to exhibit their willful sides (Camille is more artistic; Zeek more bull-in-china-shop).

How do you rate the parents of Parenthood?

Twitter: @kentucker

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