When my third-grader tells me he has a bad day, he usually says people were "bullying" him. But a good portion of the time, the various arguments and teasing are all part of the traditional fickle friendships that occur in elementary students.
There are definitely several "persistent" kids who tend to pick on others on a regular basis, and at least two (one male, one female) whose attitudes translate to a lack of respect to adults, too.
But, I don't think my child is being bullied.
Meanwhile at the gym, there are a couple kids whose behavior has been a problem off and on. While "on" their conduct has flirted with the "b" word, but thankfully something ends up distracting the pest, and the focus goes back to being gymnastics.
But, from time to time my son will complain to me in tears that "everyone hates him." Unfortunately, the coaches don't seem to remember what it is like to be a young boy, so blame my son for being "too sensitive" rather than recognizing that all the gymnasts need to focus on gymnastics rather than talking among themselves, particularly if the "talking" involves teasing.
Even then, I don't see any of the players as being true "bullies" at this point, even if I see that potential for a couple kids.
(During one extreme case, two gymnasts yelled out insulting things at my son while he was in the middle of a trick, so he got distracted, and fell. While it is true my son should have been focused enough to block them out, the taunting lead to an injury that lasted a couple months. At the time, he was 7 years old. It is tough to ignore taunting at age 7.)
For my younger son, I wonder if all the in-school talk about "anti-bullying" actually makes the kids more sensitive and more ready to label a minor trouble a major one?
Ironically enough, I do think that my older son has a potential toxic friendship on his hands. But he doesn't want to complain about anyone.
When a "friend" slapped him in the face, it was the teacher who let me know about it. When I asked my son, he downplayed it: "It is over now, I didn't want to get my friend in trouble." He's silent about any conflict that occurs on the school yard. But I know not everything is smooth sailing. While I'm glad my son isn't a "tattle," I admit being concerned that if there is a real problem, he won't tell me since he doesn't want to rock the boat.
I've got a chatty one, and a mute one. Merging my sons' two approaches would be great: handling minor conflicts as they come up on their own, but being willing to come to me (or another adult) with the more problematic ones.