I know this is mothering.com, but I'm a dad. Hope that's ok.
My daughter is 25 months old. She's our only kid, but she's been around other kids her whole life. She's with kids several times a week at parent's day out and at church on Wednesdays and Sundays. She also plays with neighbor kids her age and older, as well as cousins pretty regularly. All this to say: she's not a sheltered child. We have a good home life, with healthy relationships, a stable lifestyle, and both her mom and I are very present in her life.
The problem: she's hitting and pushing A LOT lately. She and I were at a playground today and she was sitting on top of the slide getting ready to go down and right before she pushed off, she turned around and hit the little boy in the face that was behind her on the ladder.
Her cousin (also two) came up to give her a hug and my daughter shoved her down instead of returning the hug. Not normal at all before the last few weeks.
I could give example after example, but it boils down to this: she hits, pushes and pulls hair and it's not directed at any kid in particular, but any kid that gets close. It's certainly embarrassing when I have to pull her away from a total stranger toddler because she's beating on the other kid unprovoked.
Maybe it's a phase, but I DON'T like it. Has anyone else dealt with this? I could use some advice!
What are you doing/saying after she does this?
I would (as calmly as possible) . . .
apologize to the person affected and his/her parent
lead my child away from the situation for a time out -- a big bear hug that keeps them from bolting and reinforces "if you hit/push/etc. you will be stopping whatever you're doing for a few minutes"
restate my expectations: "We play nicely. That means gentle touches, no pushing."
If it happened a second time I would take the child home if at all possible.
Do it the same way every time, and she'll figure it out.