I accidentally help wire my boys’ teen brains for critical thinking.

It was Christmas 1982, and like all parents at the time, I knew nothing about the teen brain.

But I didn’t think twice about what to give them for Christmas. It just seemed like a great idea at the time – identical Commodore 64 personal computers. The C64 was one of the first PCs ever made. The computer was integrated with the keyboard housing. All you had to do was hook it to a monitor. It became the best-selling PC of all time, but by today’s standards, it was primitive. It had only 64KB of memory (today’s PCs have 30,000 times as much memory).

To my delight, the computers were a big hit. Before long, my sons had traded with their friends to get copies of every video game produced at the time. When they tired of the games, they learned how to use a basic programming language to create their own programs. They became obsessed with how computers work and they learned one programming language after another.

This relentless effort stimulated the brain cells in their prefrontal cortex (PFC) to connect into circuits. Their obsession with computer programming by necessity led them to an interest in math. By the time they were grown, both of them had established vastly expansive and robust foundations for critical thinking. And since that wiring is physical in the brain, it’s permanent.

Everything they learned since was built on the foundation they constructed in their teen brains. My oldest son earned a Ph.D. in computer science and has had a varied career as an IT executive. My youngest son became a brilliant software engineer who has created several highly successful bleeding-edge “killer app” programs that are still used worldwide.

The thing is, they didn’t know they were wiring their young teen brain. Obviously, I didn’t know anything about it either. The STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) acronym had not been created. Like all other parents of my generation, I couldn’t have told you the difference between the prefrontal cortex and a hot rock. I wasn’t consciously trying to give them a “superior mind.” I wouldn’t write about the teen brain until 30 years later.

No, I just got lucky as a young parent (and so did they) when I gave them those computers for Christmas. Of course, there are many ways for unwitting parents and their kids to get lucky; but since luck is involved, all too often it doesn’t happen.

This is why I wrote the book, How Your Teen Can Grow a Smarter Brain – to take luck out of the equation. Helping your child develop vital thinking skills is perhaps the best way to prepare them for leaving the nest.

You can grow the bond with your child through better listening. Download the FREE ebook, Listening to Understand.