as a father who has put three through the dirt bike gig. Three years old is too young. MAYBE it'll work, but odds are he'll get scared once and be spooked or years.
Bicycle with training wheels, watching Dad ride. Once the training wheels are off(4 to 5 years old), a PW/JR/mellow KTM 50, automatic, 1 speed, no power to get the feel for a while, then a more powerful 50.
After that, an XR50 type of bike, with some gears but no clutch.
Once that's done, a mellow full featured bike such as an XR80. Real controls, f & R brakes in the right spot, a clutch with a five speed transmission, but still no power.
Then, finally a bike with some guts. Two stoke 80 or the new 150 four strokes.
Sounds cheap, eh?
Miss one step above and you threaten scaring the shit out of them for years. Ask me how I know.
There a VERY few exceptions to the kid/bike upbringing I've detailed above.
Your buddie's advice is good, you risk making them deathly afraid of bikes for a long time. Each kid is different, if you push too hard, too young, you could fuck it up forever.
Basically, keep your cruiser for another five years to give them a love for motorized outdoor adventure, then start the dirtbike gig, IMHO.
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