In the Wikipedia article, the interpretation of that scene is quite similar to your assumption that it generally shows the development of Trelkovsky's mental state: "He becomes hostile and paranoid in his day-to-day environment (snapping at his friends, slapping a child in a park) and his mental state progressively deteriorates."
Correspondingly, TV Tropes identifies the scene with the Would Hurt a Child trope.
Sean Nelson, taking a closer look at the scene, describes the scene as a "non sequitur", suggesting the following:
The camera lingers on the director's face as it registers a small
range of tender emotion. The tableau of innocence mesmerizes him. When
the boat floats out of reach, the boy cries out for help. Polanski
walks over and slaps the child's face, hard; sneers, "Filthy little
brat"; and walks away.
This jarring exchange invites a dive deep into the possibly
irrelevant, yet unignorable element of autobiography that is never far
from the discussion of Polanski's films. Strip away The Tenant's
narrative and there is Roman Polanski himself, watching the child he
never got to father because his pregnant wife was murdered by the
Manson gang. Tenderness gives way to indignation—why should this
filthy little brat have lived instead of his own child? Or consider
the Polanski who escaped from the Krakow ghetto, his survivor's guilt
enhanced by the death of his sister and pregnant mother in Nazi gas
chambers, slapping the face of a filthy little brat who dares to whine
about a toy boat. (I realize this last reading seems a bit of a
stretch, even mawkish—until you notice the Stars of David formed by
the legs of the folding chairs in the park and wonder how they
could've been accidental.)
The scene's dimensions of emotion and the formal rules of social interaction generally relate to the film's themes of physical and social identity and alienation, so the "non sequitur" seems a bit of a stretch, however there does not seem to be a straightforward relation to the tenant's transformation into Simone.