All kids, their skill level and the terrain they ride are different. Different bikes work for different situations. This has been the the route I took with my boy who just turned 12 last month. Strider at 2 yrs. old. 16 in. wheeled Specialized Hardrock(??) at around 5 yrs. old, he took off pedaling right off, first try. 20 in. wheeled Trek Superfly with a few small upgrades at around 6 yrs. old. Already at this point his skills were progressing faster than I had expected. 24 in. wheeled Orbea MX with an air fork and a few small upgrades at around 8 yrs. old. At this point he was flying downhill on our rooty, rocky trails here in TN. Going fast enough to make my heart skip a beat while watching the rear end of his bike take huge swaps back and forth under him. Although he always said he never noticed it??? At 10 yrs. old I knew he needed a full suspension bike. There I said it, yea HE NEEDED it. He was riding every thing I was riding and the speeds he was carrying downhill through the junk we ride he NEEDED IT. Just as he turned 10 I ran across a womans Stumpjumper, 26 in wheels, 120 mm travel front and back. I went through the bike, it's all XT/XTR, Stans wheels, Trailcraft crank etc. now, weighs in at just a tick over 26 lbs. I talked to a service tech at Specialized and he gave me some suggestions to set up the suspension for his weight. All I can say his skill level progressed from his very first ride at a ridiculous pace. We spent a week in Ellijay Ga. recently riding Bearhoti and the surrounding area trails. Some pretty steep technical riding. I am a pretty good rider, but when the trail turned down I could not keep him in sight, at all. My opinion for my son is he would not be the rider he is now if I would have kept him on a hardtail.
Again my opinion and experience. It's not the answer for everyone.