To Allison and Jay DeMarcus, raising their kids Dylan, 6, and Madeline, 7½, in Nashville, Tennessee, means bringing them up with traditional southern values.
“To live country is more of a state of mind, and not about cowboy hats and living on a farm,” Jay tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue, on newsstands Friday. “It’s about your core values, and your beliefs, and a way of life.”
For the Rascal Flatts bassist, who grew up attending church on Sunday and Wednesday night with choir practice on Tuesday, discussing religion and making sure his children are right with God is one of his guiding principles.
“We live in the Bible belt. I was born and raised in church,” Jay says. “That’s something that was really, really important to me, to build that foundation with our kids so they at least went to church. God knows Dylan’s gonna need it later in life. I’ve actually started putting the handcuffs on him so he could get used to the feel of them.”
“We try to take him to church — try to let him know who Jesus is,” Jay adds. “It’s really important for me that they’re ingrained in a good church and have that good foundation to build upon. I think that’s a core value system that you’ll find anywhere you go in the south.”
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For Allison, one of her main values is making sure her children are well-mannered and understand how to say “Yes, ma’am” and “No, sir.”
But aside from good etiquette, Allison has one wardrobe accessory she won’t let Madeline leave the house without: a bow.
“She’s 7 years old — it’s the south,” Allison says. “I have a rule here: No bow, no go.”
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Although the couple are doing their best to instill these southern values in their young kids, they’re also trying to strike a good balance between the perks of their parents’ jobs and growing up humble.
“I wanna do everything I can to make their lives as magical growing up as I can,” Jay says. “But at the same time, you don’t want them to be spoiled brats because that would be no fun to live with either.”
Both Jay and Allison can remember trips they were never able to take as kids. For Jay, it was Walt Disney World, and even though his parents wanted to take him there, “It just was never in the budget.”
For Allison, it was Las Vegas, a city she didn’t visit until she was 26. So far, their family has vacationed at Walt Disney World, and Dylan went to Vegas for the first time at 3½ years old to see Rascal Flatts’ residency.
“I think our kids live an extraordinarily different life than what I lived growing up. Pretty much everything about their life is different than mine was,” Jay says.
“And you know what? I’m thrilled to be blessed enough to be able to do that for them. It really makes all the long miles and all the long hours away from home worth every bit of it.”
For more from Jay DeMarcus, Thomas Rhett and other country dads, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.