As I was looking back on this experience [of his son's first job] several years later, something my son said shortly after he started his job kept coming back to me. When I picked him up the second night of work, he got in the car with a big smile on his face and said "They like me!" As I dwelt on that comment, it suddenly came clear to me - my son had finally met someone who liked him for who he was. Few others in his entire life had shown him much acceptance, especially not his mother and I. It is no exaggeration - in our efforts to shape and improve him, all we did was find fault with everything he did . We loved him dearly, but he constantly heard from us that what he did (who he was) wasn't good enough. He craved our approval, but we couldn't be pleased. Years later, I realized he had given up trying to please us when he was 14, and from then on he was just patronizing us. [italics original]
The reason our son wanted to adorn himself like his work associates, was because they accepted him for who he was. He wanted to fit in with those who made him feel significant. He wanted to be like those who gave him a sense of identity. The problem wasn't one that could be solved by extended sheltering - he could have been sheltered until he was 30 and he still would have been vulnerable. The problem was that we had sent our son into the world insecure in who he was. He went into the world with a hole in his heart that God had wanted to fill through his parents.
Do yourself and your kids a favor, love them—and tell them repeatedly that you love them. And assure them that your love is unconditional; that you will always love them. God's business is changing them and molding them.
Now, don't think I'm saying not to discipline them, because I'm not. You can end up with just as big a mess that way :( But, for better or worse, most of the time we don't tell our kids we love them enough. Or, we say it but don't show it.
The results can affect them for years afterward. Please, tell them you love them—and show it.