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First, your son is NOT your father or your brother or your nephew. If you read the boards here often enough, you'll find that it's really common in toddlers to do this kind of thing.

If I were you, I would keep doing what you are doing, only modify it a bit. You need to prevent this as much as possible (that would be my ONLY goal as a parent for the next 3-4 weeks, to be honest), so he gets the idea that this behavior simply isn't allowed. If he can't make contact, he'll lose the "thrill" of getting a reaction.

Where I would modify it is that I woudln't let it go on until you get mad. Instead of letting him keep poking, kicking, etc. until you get mad, I would first try to position myself so that he can't do that. Keep your hands free so you can grab his hand and gently prevent him from poking. Place your hands in front of your body so he can't headbutt. Grab his leg when he starts to kick. Then, after you grab his body, repeat "gentle, gentle" and help his body be gentle.

If he happens to make contact, say "ow, that hurts me. Gentle." and demonstrate gentle again. If he makes contact a second time, stand up and say "ow, that hurts my body, I can't lay with you if you hurt me." and leave for a minute or two. Or plop him in the crib for a minute or two while you regain your composure. (It's important to be as boring as possible while doing this so he doesn't get a rise out of you.)

At playgroup/park, you are going to be your son's shadow for several weeks -- your goal is to prevent him making contact. So, alas, you aren't going to socialize, you're going sit yourself down right in the middle of where he's playing so he's within arms reach. If he makes contact with another child, say "that hurts Tyler. Be gentle" and redirect him. If he does it again, repeat the words, but pick him up and move him where he can't make contact anymore. If he does it again, pick him up and move with him to the couch/park bench for a minute and say "gentle" and demonstrate. Then add "it looks like you need to play by yourself for a bit. We'll sit over here by ourselves for a bit."

I going to get it to stop in the long run? Its like any reaction just encourages the behavior, but especially getting mad or raising my voice. And sometimes he does it because he WANTS to go home or WANTS to be in the stroller, in which case aren't I rewarding his bad behavior?
I would encourage you to think of this as a short term, normal toddler problem NOT a life long personality defect that you see in your father.

In the long run, you stop it by pointing out to him the effect of his actions on other people "Tyler is said when you do that" (expect this to take many years), by MODELING appropriate behavior to him, by listening to him when he says "stop", and by limiting contact with people who don't listen when he says "stop".

If your toddler is misbehaving because he wants to go home, it's time to go home. It's not about 'rewarding' bad behavior, but about realizing that a toddler has a very limited ability to control themself, and that if they are acting out, they've passed that point. If he WANTS to be in the stroller, then what he's saying, without the words is "my body is out of control, I need to be in the stroller to feel safe." As he gets older, you can work on him to express his needs in a more appropriate way. A 12 year old acting out because he wants to go home is one thing. A 2 year old is a very different.
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