Christian Home Builder - Lesson 7

Rules That Don't Get Posted

Background Information for the Teacher


  1. The student will be able to define family rules.
  2. The student will be able to cite Biblical examples of family rules.
  3. The student will be able to list the characteristics of healthy family rules.
  4. The student will be able to list the characteristics of unhealthy family rules.


  1. The teacher will want to review the notes in this lesson carefully, as it explains a concept that is very important to healthy Christian family functioning.
  2. The teacher will want to review the story of Joseph, especially the stories in Genesis 37, about the life of Joseph within his family.
  3. The teacher will want to prepare copies of the lesson handout sheet.


This lesson is designed to help the student understand how healthy family rules promote strong Christian marriages and parent-child relationships.

Lesson Plan for Conducting the Class


  1. Prayer and announcements. 
  2. 2. Opening question: Think of your favorite game. What are the rules to that game? Those may be stated in a rulebook, officially adopted by a sports organization or handed down word of mouth. Are there unofficial or informal rules to your game? (In football, an offside penalty occurs when either offensive or defensive linemen jump into the line of scrimmage. That's considered a "formal rule." In practice many coaches refuse to allow their players to sit on their helmets. That would be considered an "informal rule.")

Learning Experiences:

  1. What Are Family Rules?
    1. A set of expectations of who we are and how we behave.
    2. Family rules are often heard in our communication patterns.
    3. Formal rules are different from informal rules. Formal rules can be written down. Informal rules are generally not written down but are more powerful.
      1. A formal rule might be curfew at 10:00 p.m.
      2. An informal rule might be "Go ask dad when you get in trouble, because he is easier than mom.”
    4. Try to think of some rules in your own family or the family you grew up in. See if you can write them down.
    5. The rules may go back for several generations. They become a part of the tradition of the family.
    6. A family rule is a sense of "should” or "ought” or "expectations.”
    7. A collection of rules is referred to a personal or Family Script.
  2. A Biblical Example: Joseph In Genesis 37
    1. Genesis 37:3 - A rule in Israel's house was that Joseph was loved more than the other boys. This would have been an informal rule.
    2. Genesis 37:5 - Joseph's brothers were jealous of him and treated him poorly. This too would have been an informal rule
    3. Genesis 37:9-11 - In Joseph's family, everyone was considered to be exactly the same. No one was allowed to be different. This was an informal rule.
    4. Genesis 37:14 - A formal rule may have been that Joseph did not accompany his older brothers to the fields with the flocks. This would have been an obvious "should” or "ought.”
    5. Genesis 37:34-35 - Joseph's brothers and sisters plotted not to tell Israel about Joseph being sold into slavery. This was an informal plot. Everyone kept the secret.
    6. You can see that rules can be very powerful. They can be very difficult to break. They can be either healthy or unhealthy. Let's take a more contemporary example that is not quite so serious.
  3. An Example From Christmas (An example of rules)
    1. How does your family spend Christmas? The way in which we "do” Christmas says a lot about the kinds of formal and informal rules that a family may have. Answer the following questions and see what kinds of rules surround your holiday season.
    2. How my family spends Christmas.
      1. Do we expect each person to get the same number of gifts or just buy for one another and enjoy the gifts that are given?
      2. Do we celebrate on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning?
      3. Is the packaging important or unimportant?
      4. Is it all right to give money or are we suppose to buy them a gift?
      5. Do we open the packages quickly and at the same time or do we take a long time and watch everyone open one gift at a time?
      6. Do we as a family gather at one person's house for Christmas or rotate to various houses for Christmas?
      7. Is it okay for kids to get clothes or are clothes considered an inappropriate gift for children?
      8. Do we make a budget and hold to it firmly or is their flexibility and some surprises?
      9. Do we draw for names or does everyone get everyone else a gift?
  4. What Do Healthy Families Do?
    1. Healthy families have learned to develop good rules that manage the way in which they function as a family.
    2. Healthy family functioning.
      1. Rules both formal and informal are not so rigid as to be above change or adaptation.
      2. No one person is more important than any other person.
      3. The family has no secrets.
      4. The family has a good sense of humor and can laugh at itself and the things it loves the most.
      5. The family is fluid and capable of adapting to changes inside the family and in the community at large.
      6. The family talks to each other not about each other or through other people.
      7. Members of the family keep nicely surprising each other.
      8. Individual family members are allowed to think their own thoughts, feel their own feelings and individuality is celebrated and encouraged.
      9. There is a clear hierarchy and someone is in charge. That power and authority, however, is not abused.
      10. There is a healthy involvement with others outside the family.
      11. There is an ability to deal with crises that are both anticipated and unanticipated in life.
      12. Family members can disagree without becoming disagreeable.
      13. The family honestly admits it shortcomings and seeks help when it is needed.
  5. What Do Unhealthy Families Do?
    1. Unhealthy families also have rules. Often times these rules do not promote health and wellbeing in the family. This was the case in Joseph's family growing up.
      1. Family members may deny that problems exist when they really do.
      2. Family members will continue to use poor interaction skills even when they have been proven not to work very well.
      3. Family members may force compliance to a particular mold, idea or set of expectations.
      4. Unhealthy families may tell members "don't feel that way.”
      5. Members learn not to trust one another or perhaps-other people as well.
      6. There is an overriding critical nature.
      7. True honesty is not possible.
      8. There may be an overemphasis in performance, perfectionism, activities and drivenness.
      9. The image of God is distorted and blocked due to these poor rules.


  1. Complete the student handout sheet and place it in your journal.
  2. Reflect on your family growing up. What kind of rules did you have? How were the formal and informal rules different from one another?
  3. Think about the family you are in now. What kinds of rules do you all share as a group? Which ones are good and which ones need to be changed?
  4. Prepare a plan for talking about one of the informal rules that you and your family have. Select one that is novel or funny to begin talking about. You may then progress to one that is a little more serious. Talk about how you might be open to changing that particular rule and adapting it to a new situation.

"RULES THAT DON'T GET POSTED” Defining Family Rules

Characteristics of Healthy Families:

What Unhealthy Families Do:

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